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"Americans maximize their... [happiness] by working, and Europeans maximize their [happiness] through leisure,"
May 23, 2011 6:26 PM   Subscribe

Why America is the 'no vacation nation'. (CNN) -- Let's be blunt: If you like to take lots of vacation, the United States is not the place to work.
posted by blue_beetle (331 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite

 
"They kind of have this idea that Americans work like employ robots and if that's the way they want to be, that's up to them. But they the robots don't want to be like that," Schimkat said.

A few little changes and you're spot on.
posted by crapmatic at 6:32 PM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's a good article, and worth serious discussion, but omg, this bit:

"But is more government regulation the answer? The debate rages on."

That's some of the laziest writing I've ever seen.
posted by hank_14 at 6:33 PM on May 23, 2011 [29 favorites]




hank_14, I think you mean: "Is that some of the laziest writing I've ever seen? The debate rages on."
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:39 PM on May 23, 2011 [52 favorites]


I couldn't quite believe it when I found out that a handful of weeks of annual leave wasn't the norm in America. I'd always wanted to work there at some point in time, but the idea that I couldn't expect to take a week or two off here and there is just so foreign to me.

Odd annual leave trivia - the 8 weeks of long service leave that Australians and New Zealanders get after 10 years in a job (on top of normal annual leave) is originally because we needed that long to get over to Mother England and back.
posted by twirlypen at 6:39 PM on May 23, 2011 [9 favorites]


"The vacation days in America are numerous in amount," CNN said earnestly. "One day they take is President's day, or as the Indians call it, Lincoln's birthday. Another famous President was George W Bush. In conclusion, America is a land of contrast. Thank you."
posted by blue_beetle at 6:39 PM on May 23, 2011 [102 favorites]


Hey, I managed to fit in a week at the beach four years ago. Maybe I'll make it back in a few years.
posted by octothorpe at 6:42 PM on May 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Is the Metafilter background blue? The debate rages on.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:45 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


It isn't even that not everybody even has lots of time off available. I routinely throw away ~3 weeks of vacation time (I have 4 weeks total, because of my company's "globalization" and that we're frequently ranked very highly in the Top X Companies to Work For ratings).

I don't not take the vacation time because I am a robot, or working more makes me happy. The pressures of what people think of you here are related to how much time you put in. That, and the whole business of doing more with less makes it functionally impossible for me to leave for long periods of time.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 6:46 PM on May 23, 2011 [9 favorites]


America is the one place in the western world where, if you profess to liking leisure time, travelling, working-to-live instead of the other way around, you eventually get branded as a lazy do-nothing and, consequently, rarely build up enough years of service at one place to get more than two weeks per year of paid vacation.

It's not enough to put in 10 to 12 hours a day and several hours on a Saturday to be recognized as putting forth the minimum effort to do your job. You have to sacrifice the scant bit of time you get away from your masters promising to work on projects and answering your phone and work email.

Combine that with flat salary growth, diminishing benefits, the disappearance of pensions, and essentially what we're working toward is the feudal system 2.0.
posted by contessa at 6:46 PM on May 23, 2011 [117 favorites]


Travel is for those who don't live in the greatest nation on earth.
posted by gman at 6:46 PM on May 23, 2011 [54 favorites]


Ugh, this is one of my huge pet peeves. My completely unverified theory is that we have such loose employment laws (I can be fired tomorrow for no reason at all), it creates a mentality that you can't take any time off or you won't have a job when I get back.

I work with a few Englishmen and they really do take time off. We're talking 3 weeks, no contact, fall off the face the planet time off. Management doesn't seem to bat an eye. Here, if I were to do the same, I'd be seen as "not reachable when we needed you," and some American Puritanism bullshit of not in working mode 100% of the time. Completely not helped by that little weasel two offices down who will fucking call in when he's on vacation once a day to make sure there's no problems and the rest of us look like fucking slackers.

A nice thing would be there to be a feature on phones to have a "Work" and "Non-work" numbers. You can sort of do this with GoogleVoice app, but I'd really like the ability to ding if I get work e-mails and then not ding when I'm in vacation mode. Really hard to do this as it is, I know some people who have two phones to overcome this.
posted by geoff. at 6:46 PM on May 23, 2011 [23 favorites]


Another reason I want to get the fuck out of the United States and never look back.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:47 PM on May 23, 2011 [27 favorites]


I spoke to an Australian friend once about my plans to take a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Ireland, and he asked derisively, "are you going to do the typical American thing of looking out the car window for a few days and claiming you've seen the country?" I explained that it's not by choice that we take quick trips, it's because that's the only leave we have.

He moved to the U.S. soon after that and fortunately he loves his job because he's tied to it for the health benefits. He's pretty happy though; at his 5th anniversary he got another week's vacation.
posted by headnsouth at 6:49 PM on May 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Also, I think the reason most Americans don't take time off from work is that they can't afford to.
They live from paycheck to paycheck, meaning they can't not work for two weeks, and their work doesn't even take stuff like days off into consideration- you're expected to work 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year, maybe unless you're sick. Stuff like "vacation time" or "paid vacation" are luxuries for rich urbanites.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:51 PM on May 23, 2011 [25 favorites]


I, too, hated the puritan work ethic thing, and was happy to find work in foreign lands. Unfortunately, I found that work in Japan, which might be the only place less vacation friendly than the U.S. There are the national holidays, kindly arranged into groups (Golden Week at the beginning of May, the proposed newish Silver Week in the middle of September), but that just means that everyone is trying to vacation at the same time, so prices are double the regular.

My wife, working in a retail job, is considered a slacker because she uses her vacation days. Her boss actually got angry at her after the earthquake for not coming back the day after for her scheduled evening shift, even though she'd had to stay at the store overnight due to the quake. So, yeah, if you're looking for a more laid back approach, this might not be the place.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:53 PM on May 23, 2011 [8 favorites]


When a friend of mine was recruiting animators from Europe, one of the main sticking points was the lack of vacation. Cue incredulous Irishman stating, "two weeks of vacation? After 90 days probation?"

The worst part of the American work ethic is that even if you do have vacation, there is no expectation that you actually utilize it; in fact, you may be seen as lazy or taking advantage or harming the workplace if you actually take the full two weeks off.

I can't tell you the next time I'm taking a vacation. Why? Because it's never convenient for my employers, and it never will be. (I'm still taking my two weeks, though, don't doubt it.)

Just recently, and this is tangential, our company rolled out an Exchange server, and had our tech guy available to set up our work emails on our personal smartphones. Fuuuuck that!
posted by jabberjaw at 6:53 PM on May 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


I think about this a lot. I think it is no coincidence that Americans also work ridiculous hours. People take a perverse pride in working themselves to death on the way up, with then promise that some day they will be able to take it easy. Part of the mythos of America is The Struggle, the heroic effort to overcome adversity that will pay off in the end. People will put up with almost anything to achieve that goal. This wouldn't be to bad if people actually made it, but the sad fact is that many never do. You face a lifetime of toil only to be tossed into the street in order to sweeten the bosses numbers just a bit.

I was actually forced to take 2 weeks last year as I had accrued the maximum amount I could have. I still felt guilty as I lay there in bed not working.

Of course I have it good, some people do not even have the option. My stepfather for example gets no paid vacation and 4 sick days a year. That is unconcionable.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:54 PM on May 23, 2011 [21 favorites]


Really? Not that long ago, everybody was shitting themselves because we had over 10% of the workforce out on vacation. We finally got some of you back to work, and you're already one foot out the door? Next thing you know, you're going to insist on going home at night for conjugal visits. No wonder the robots got no respect for us. Americans are weak and lazy, anymore, and want big government to stop selling them to foreign countries for cheap labor. Oh, boo hoo! Look at me: I'm American! I'm too good to pay off our national debt working in the mines! Well wake up, sheeple! The robots only need us if we'll do the jobs they wouldn't do themselves! If we legalize unions, again, how long before SkyNet decides we're not worth the price?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:55 PM on May 23, 2011 [24 favorites]


Oh man, I was just talking to my friend about this. My friend from FRANCE. Upon opening the subject, I said, "Guess how many federally mandated holidays there are in the U.S.?"

She knew I was fishing for her to lowball the answer, that it was a ridiculously short number of days, at least compared with France. So she said, "A week?"

"Zero," I said. And that is what you get someone from a omgsocialist country like France (though to be fair, France is pretty much at the other end of the spectrum). Generally, people get a week or two every year--unpaid--but nothing guaranteed, unless you're a government employee.

My French friend was agog. AGOG.
posted by zardoz at 6:56 PM on May 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Let's be blunt: If you like to take lots of vacation, the United States is not the place to work.

Unless you're President Bush.
posted by EmGeeJay at 6:58 PM on May 23, 2011 [35 favorites]


I've been fairly lucky with my regards to vacation time working in NGO world. At my last job, I worked my way up to four weeks by the five year mark (although it was frowned upon if you wanted to take more than one week at once).

Then I moved to an organization with deeply European roots. We have many international staff working in our office. I started out with four weeks of vacation (plus 2 personal days, 1 floating holiday, and sick time), and then was given another week when I hit three years. But the real bonus is that people routinely take two weeks off, and taking three weeks is not that uncommon either. And we close the office at 3pm on Fridays during summer (starting this week).

Sigh, it's gonna be a rough transition if I ever leave this job.
posted by kimdog at 6:59 PM on May 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


My husband used to work for an American company that offers pretty generous amounts of vacation, amongst their incredibly glorious benefits. However, the idea of taking that vacation all at once would have pretty much been laughed right out of the office in most situations. I think the idea is that the other incredibly glorious benefits were supposed to keep you happy and healthy enough that you wouldn't need more than a week here, an artificially lengthened weekend there.

We toyed with the idea of moving to one of the company's European outposts and I wonder how that would have been, whether we'd have been encouraged to use all that exciting vacation time in one shot, or if the home-office culture would have prevailed, or what.
posted by padraigin at 7:00 PM on May 23, 2011


It is interesting when the pressure is self-imposed. I'm not talking about most Americans, who either have little vacation time or have legitimate reasons to fear taking it. I'm talking about those like the people I work with, who often do not take it because they're either obsessed with their job or feel that things will explode if they take a day or two off. They tend to have a very inflated sense of exactly how important they are (despite working for a company with tens of thousands of employees, which you would think would make it more obvious that a single employee being gone for a week or two will not cause the business to fail).

It's not the normal case, sure. But its fairly common in some industries, even when job security is not on the line (as is the case right now in high-end computing jobs -- with the current crazy job market, job security is not a major issue for such people).

I actually take all my vacation days and am incredibly grateful for them, I know that I'm lucky to have them.
posted by wildcrdj at 7:00 PM on May 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


As comments have touched upon here, vacation time is a Prisoner's dilemma in the absence of policy. The economic purpose of representative government is to prevent these kinds of suboptimal outcomes.
posted by FreedomTickler at 7:00 PM on May 23, 2011 [36 favorites]


For the first time in my life, I'm working at a job where I get a reasonable amount of vacation time -- three weeks. At prior jobs I got considerably less. One job memorably gave me two weeks of "personal time" per year, which was meant to be used as vacation time AND sick time. If you were unlucky enough to catch the flu (which is inevitable, because we all seem to go to work even when we're sick as dogs and get our coworkers sick as well), well, there goes any vacation for you that year.

What's really jarring at my current job is the out-of-office auto-responder culture. I'm used to setting my automatic replies in Outlook when I'm going to be out on a weekday, or if I'm going on vacation. But there's an expectation among many of my coworkers that you will be available damn near 24/7. I got snipped at by a coworker last week because I didn't have my auto-responder set for the weekend. The weekend. Saturday and Sunday. For god's sake.
posted by palomar at 7:01 PM on May 23, 2011


Part of the reason people tend not to take their whole *two weeks* at once is that you're expected to use that time if you run out of sick leave. So if you get to the end of the year and get sick you could be screwed out of your time altogether.

Which just leads us back to the stupid Boxer syndrome we all suffer under in this country.

For the record, I have never maximized my happiness by working. Even at jobs I liked.
posted by emjaybee at 7:05 PM on May 23, 2011 [9 favorites]


At prior jobs I got considerably less. One job memorably gave me two weeks of "personal time" per year, which was meant to be used as vacation time AND sick time.

I've had jobs with combined PTO like that. It's got to be the stupidest policy in the world; people will drag themselves to work with the flu and 102 fever to keep from using up their precious vacation time. That just insures that the whole office gets sick too.
posted by octothorpe at 7:06 PM on May 23, 2011 [17 favorites]


Years ago, I took a mangement class (a requirement for a comm degree where I went) where they talked about workplace culture. At many companies, those evil workers would band together and hassle any co-worker who was working herder than anyone else or otherwise sucking up to the bosses. The management prof (greeedy little ABD MBA) talked about how tragic and evil this was and how hard to overcome. I must admit I experienced such such workplace cultures, decades ago.

I vote for bringing it back. So everyone, take some time off. Start taking it easy. Hassle, ostracize or even bitchslap anyone who doesn't. Be tough. Be consistant. Solidarity!
posted by tommyD at 7:06 PM on May 23, 2011 [9 favorites]


A few years ago I interviewed at a web programming agency in San Francisco. I was all set to take the job. Great pay, great benefits, and I'd be treated like a "rock star".

Yet I turned it down. During my final interview, I spoke with the CEO, who told me (very proud, very obviously) that he'd "never taken a day of vacation".

I know I was supposed to think that the reason was because the workplace was so great. Nah, I turned the job down because I couldn't possibly work at a place with an obnoxious top-down workplace ethic like that.

A year or two later, having thought about it, I started my own competing company. No one gets to tell me how much time I'm allowed on vacation. I think that's the way of the future american tech industry. Sorry if it is too difficult or annoying to follow me, that's the current American Way.

I couldn't be more busy, yet I still take more vacation than Dell, IBM or any shitty little consulting house ever offered.
posted by Invoke at 7:08 PM on May 23, 2011 [19 favorites]


My company just went to a system they're perversely calling the "Freedom Plan". You're apparently just supposed to take what you want when you want it, provided you can get your supervisor to approve it and it works for your team. In my crazy deadline-driven industry, there is never a good time to take vacation; you're always screwing someone over when you do. But when we were entitled to a certain amount of PTO every year, everyone made it work so that people could use their tangible, capped time. Now that it's just a vague, nebulous thing, everyone looks at each other suspiciously and keeps track of how many hours others are taking. We're all in the same boat—it's pretty much a pay cut—but it's gotten us to somehow turn on each other.

Work culture in this country is fucked up, yes it is.
posted by peachfuzz at 7:09 PM on May 23, 2011 [37 favorites]


See, American workers are taught that they're expendable. It doesn't matter what your skills are, what your reputation is, how many years you've put in. There are 50 more just like you lining up to take your job (and will ask for less!) the instant you displease your management -- this is what we learn. This is what we are up against. We will rationalize every perverse pleasure of corporate higher-ups to keep a job. Hey, if you don't like it, the door's right over there -- don't let it hit ya (etc. etc.).

This is how we are serfs in the 21st century. I don't see it going uphill from here.
posted by contessa at 7:12 PM on May 23, 2011 [25 favorites]


Let's be blunt: If you like to take lots of vacation, the United States is not the place to work.

Unless you're President Bush.
Oh, leave him alone. Brush doesn't clear itself, you know, and honestly, recognizing that he was in over his head and sitting things out might be the best decision he ever made as president.
posted by empyrean at 7:12 PM on May 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


Technically, I have two weeks of vacation.

But I have to bill my time. So, if I take a vacation day, or need a sick day, or have to do something for work that isn't billable, then I have to make up my time so that, by the end of the month or the end of the year, I've reached my target number of billable hours.

So that one week-vacation that I took last summer (first one in three years) meant that I spent the rest of the year trying to make up the lost 50 hours of billable time.
posted by amro at 7:12 PM on May 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


For several years I never took an actual vacation. I would use my vacation time (10 days a year) to make 3 and 4 day weekends for myself scattered throughout the year so I could get out of town and go to various concerts or other weekend events. Other than that, for about 5 years, I didn't have any more than a long weekend off.

America sucks if you're a worker. When are we going to actually fix this? I suspect it's going to take something radical. But I've been unemployed for a while now, and have nothing but time. Maybe we need some kind of IWW organization of the unemployed nationwide.
posted by hippybear at 7:13 PM on May 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


"two or three precious weeks"

I got five days after my first year. One extra day per year every subsequent year. The only time I've ever had three weeks vacation I was unemployed. Three weeks? I wish.
posted by notsnot at 7:16 PM on May 23, 2011


Funny how quick people are to generalize about how all Americans do this or that. Big company I work for, you start with three weeks, go up to four after a few years, and have seven personal holidays, above the standard ones. Two weeks in a row is no big deal, my manager takes three weeks straight to go to Portugal each summer. Sick days are just when you are sick you go home, they aren't counted anywhere. Heck, even vacation days aren't centrally tracked, only within your team so you know you have coverage. It's a pretty good setup for no-vacation land.
posted by smackfu at 7:16 PM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


On the other hand, I have no PTO and can only get cleared for 1 week unpaid per year. I get two unpaid sick days on top of that.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 7:21 PM on May 23, 2011


(personally I don't know how people take three or four weeks off in a row. Is it just that they are completely interchangeable cog in the machine and someone else can easily take over for them?)
posted by smackfu at 7:22 PM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


I work for the Canadian appendage of a vastly enormous American MegaCorp. Going to down to the mothership in Houston, I hang out with people on American vacation (2 weeks paid), and contrast it to our allotment (4 weeks paid) and that of the various Euro and Aussie expats (6+ weeks for Dutch, Brits, Aussies, etc). I have nothing but sympathy and pity for the USians and their poor deal. At least, I can report that they're not so crazy as to not envy the expats. Perhaps it's a generational thing though... I mostly interact with <35 year olds, who might have a different conception of the work vs. living balance.

It boggles my mind that anyone would think there's honour in taking less vacation. What: we're supposed to grind away with no time until we retire, then stop abruptly, when our minds and bodies are spent? During the annual salary review / raise period, I always offer to turn down the raise for equivalent time off instead. The looks of shock and confusion this causes makes me feel bad for my manager(s), who are all in all, fairly decent folks, so I quickly make it seem like I was a joke.
posted by bumpkin at 7:22 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


(personally I don't know how people take three or four weeks off in a row. Is it just that they are completely interchangeable cog in the machine and someone else can easily take over for them?)

Let's hope someone from civilization (the UK, Germany, France, Sweden, Spain) can pop in and answer that for us. I would be interested to know that as well, since as far as most of us have been led to believe, that would lead to TOTAL ORGANIZATIONAL COLLAPSE.
posted by contessa at 7:24 PM on May 23, 2011 [23 favorites]


I also kind of thought there were a lot of academics on MeFi. Where are they in these discussions?
posted by smackfu at 7:24 PM on May 23, 2011


The job I was laid off from last year got me an interesting situation. I received two weeks vacation at start, a I was moved from a consultant to an employee position. Then they moved me from non-exempt from overtime pay to exempt from overtime pay, and the compensation for that was an extra week of vacation time. Then at 5 year I got another week, so I had 20 vacation days a year.

The reason this was interesting? They wanted to find a way to take one of those 5-day blocks from me, because the only reason I had it was because of a merger just after I was hired. My then-manager had moved heaven and earth to get me (and four other people moved into full employee status) in before the merger so we'd get two weeks instead of one. HR couldn't figure out a legal way to get it away from me, though.

I also always made sure I had the OK for vacation locked down and recorded at least two months in advance.

On the other hand, as I was coming back from a vacation, I turned on my phone after getting off the plane, and found that I'd been called three times from the office while I was in flight. When I called in, I found out that something had melted down that morning, and it was a full-on panic and no one knew how to fix it. I told them where to look for the directions on how to fix it (which I had written down in a Word doc, put into a shared directory that the people covering for me had access to, and had them open before I left to make sure they could and then also emailed to the people), and then hung up.

My manager told me that I wasn't very helpful. My reply was that I was perfectly helpful... when not on vacation. There were some tense words exchanged, and then I dropped the bomb of "and the directions to fix this were left behind in case of trouble and they ignored it".

But the next year, when I went on vacation again? I went to the people covering for me and made them look at the troubleshooting document again, while I stood there, and then email me that they had done so.

I hated the CYA issues with vacation time.
posted by mephron at 7:24 PM on May 23, 2011 [13 favorites]


I worked for a local, county government and has 2 weeks of vacation. I was never pressured not to take them, but I did feel bad about taking them a) because I had to plan so far out for it, and I'm a spontaneous person, and b) because I knew what a hassle this was for my manager who had to spread such thin staff over such large areas of need. Our pay was also flat in the three years I worked there, but at least I felt like I was doing good work, and never felt pressured by management to not take my time that I was due.

Sick time however, always felt like I was inconveniencing someone, or draining the budget by taking it. Also not the fault of management, but just the bad budget situation we were in. I probably went to work sick more than I should have.

It does feel like pressure is escalating for the American worker. It's one reason why I have no desire to re-enter the private workforce.
posted by codacorolla at 7:26 PM on May 23, 2011


yeah, I never even looked to see how many days off I was entitled to when I started my new job (teaching k12), because my first day in, I got a school-wide email that said "we have spent $xxxxxx.00 this year on substitutes because some of you are taking days off so don't do that again!"
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:26 PM on May 23, 2011


My company just went to a system they're perversely calling the "Freedom Plan". You're apparently just supposed to take what you want when you want it, provided you can get your supervisor to approve it and it works for your team. In my crazy deadline-driven industry, there is never a good time to take vacation; you're always screwing someone over when you do.

I'm really lucky to work at a company small enough to talk these things over with the bosses before they are implemented, in an industry small enough to have casual chats with folks from other companies in the same ecosystem. We've long had a 'Use it or lose it' policy with explicit PTO days, and an HR person nice enough to poke employees and remind them, "Hey, you haven't been using your PTO -- want to chat about when would make sense?" People start with two weeks and get an additional week after their first and second year, resulting in a pretty sweet setup by American crazy software/web consultancy standards.

One of our competitors was chatting up their new "liberal" PTO policy, where anyone could take any time they wanted to as long as "it worked out for the projects they were working on." Our HR person asked if that sounded like a good idea, as they'd just been reading about it, and it got nix'd very quickly. Thank God. Later, I was chatting with folks on the front lines at the other company, and they concurred: the employees who cared didn't take days off, because there were always fires that needed putting out.
posted by verb at 7:28 PM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Within the non-profit world, and with some government positions (at least the mental health part I was involved with), there seems to be a better balance of knowing people need that time off. Then again, it's likely due to the fact that they can't reward with money, so they reward with time. But right out of undergrad I had a job that offered 3 weeks paid vacation + 3 weeks sick time + 12 paid holidays (including your birthday) per year, and these started accruing from the first month. Taking the full three all at once would have likely been a little tricky, simply because part of the job was checking in on mental health patients regularly, but you could have worked something out with co-worker. There was no pride in overworking yourself, and I appreciated the value inherent in that. I'm currently in academia and given the freedom over the summer break it feels more European sometimes.
posted by bizzyb at 7:28 PM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Somewhat a propos, a great article in this weekend's Globe and Mail, "The three day weekend, a dream deferred".
posted by bumpkin at 7:29 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


For those who question how its possible for your organisation to survive with you on leave - they plan for it and make do.

The organisations I've worked for anticipate that everyone is going to take two to four weeks off in the coming year, and plans accordingly.

The organisations we compete with do the same, so it's not an issue of competitive disadvantage.

They hire a few more people, they plan projects taking vacation time into account (just as you would take dozens of other factors into account).

They backfill positions (ie bump everyone up a level to cover those roles, and hire a temp to cover the bottom job - which as a tangent greatly enhances the knowledge and experience of everyone).

One organisation I worked for had a handful of 'flying managers' - young up and comers - who basically spent a year or two changing jobs every two to four weeks to fill the roles of people who were on vacation.

People can plan their own work around their taking the break. They'll take their break at a time when their job is less busy if possible, and coordinate with colleagues to ensure everyone's not wanting holidays at the same time. In the weeks before the holiday they'll anticipate and get ahead or inform their bosses or empower their colleagues and staff.
posted by jjderooy at 7:31 PM on May 23, 2011 [19 favorites]


(6+ weeks for Dutch, Brits, Aussies, etc)

In Australia this would be extremely unusual. Beyond teachers, etc. I have never heard of 6 weeks unless you're counting sick leave or salary sacrifice for that kind of leave. 4 weeks annual leave is the standard (and law) here for full-time workers. Larger companies have an incentive to take it too, otherwise unpaid leave has to be reported as a liability in financials.
posted by smoke at 7:32 PM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


They hire a few more people, they plan projects taking vacation time into account (just as you would take dozens of other factors into account).

Ah, now I see why this would never work in the United States.
posted by contessa at 7:36 PM on May 23, 2011 [13 favorites]


I also kind of thought there were a lot of academics on MeFi. Where are they in these discussions?

Academic here. But an Australian one. So I get 4 weeks annual leave a year, like everyone else in the country. Plus sick days. And long-service leave. And personal days. Paid.

</gloat>
posted by Jimbob at 7:36 PM on May 23, 2011


American academic, but on a 12-month contract (rather than 9-month like typical teaching faculty). This summer I'm taking four weeks off, which I've accrued after a year and a half at work. But I won't use up all my vacation time, and I did take a vacation last summer and some time during the year.

Plenty of folks could use their time and don't. So many of us leave jobs with substantial vacation time built up.
posted by bluedaisy at 7:39 PM on May 23, 2011


You also have to remember that a lot of that time is taken up in personal errands. Kids school functions, sick kids, sick spouse, car repairs, and various other things take away vacation time one day at a time. After all that running around, there is hardly any time left to take a proper vacation. In my case downsizing has put a crimp in my vacations. At one time I had 2 people to cover for me, and I them, then 1, now its just me. Now I don't go anywhere unless the workload is scant. Long live the three day holiday weekend, which I have coming up this weekend!!!!
posted by PJMoore at 7:40 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I also kind of thought there were a lot of academics on MeFi. Where are they in these discussions?

Both Mr. Francesca and I work for a University (I just retired last year, he is still working.) We get from 18 to 24 hours per month, depending on years of service, and are able to accumulate up to 340 hours, before loosing the surplus to extended sick leave. I have always managed (being Italian) to use every single hours coming to me. The mister reached top hours the second year he worked for the University, and has never been able to think he can actually take vacation even in between grants deadlines. I severely twist his arm to get him to come to Italy with me every once in a long while. What can I say? He is an American.
posted by francesca too at 7:41 PM on May 23, 2011


I work in the US.

I once had an employer - a government contractor - claim that if I was to serve on a jury for 6 weeks, they couldn't guarantee that I'd have a job afterwards

It didn't come to that, the HR person was probably incorrect, and I suspect they'd have been in a bad place doing that to a salaried employee, but yes, America is messed up when it comes to anything that takes away from work attendance, whether they're vacations and civic obligations.
posted by zippy at 7:42 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I also kind of thought there were a lot of academics on MeFi. Where are they in these discussions?

I chimed in a bit above, but didn't preview first. I'm on a 9-month contract (~Aug-May), plus breaks when students have breaks. Sick days are generally just as needed within reason, meaning that if I have to substitute an online activity or have someone show a film because I'm sick, no one is keeping track of that. Longer illnesses would likely require some documentation. If I finish teaching around noon one day, no one cares if I leave campus for the day, as long as I have a general presence during the academic year.

One of the reasons I was drawn to academia was because of the flexibility. I love love love my work, but I feel so much more recharged for it when I come back from summer break. I do one of the types of careers where I'm always working in some ways -- I'm always reading, always writing, planning research, etc. The external pressure required for that to happen isn't that great, either. Colleges can vary just like other areas, though, as far as some people being pushed to give more. Summer teaching can be heavily encouraged, committee work can continue, tenure requirements can be super heavy. I feel fortunate that I'm at a college that highly values work-life balance. If I'm asked to help with something over the summer, it really is just a request that I am free to turn down.
posted by bizzyb at 7:42 PM on May 23, 2011


They hire a few more people, they plan projects taking vacation time into account (just as you would take dozens of other factors into account).

That's just crazy talk.
posted by octothorpe at 7:43 PM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I also kind of thought there were a lot of academics on MeFi. Where are they in these discussions?

Um, I'm right here, taking a MeFi break from work (tonight, writing a conference talk.)

No, we don't take vacations -- but we (or at least those of us lucky enough to have tenure) are in most important ways our own bosses, with a great deal of choice about the projects we take on. We don't work long hours to make more money or to keep from getting fired, because neither of those things depend very strongly on how hard we work -- we work hard because the things we work on are things we really, really want to do. So I think our situation doesn't really map well onto what's being discussed here.
posted by escabeche at 7:44 PM on May 23, 2011


Maybe we need some kind of IWW organization of the unemployed nationwide.

and here you are...
"Local Worker-Owned Restaurant Joins Historic Labor Union: Act signifies workers' real desire for change, not just rhetoric."

funny, grandma used to refer to them as the "I won't work".
posted by clavdivs at 7:47 PM on May 23, 2011


You may have heard about how I got run over by a car a couple weeks ago. As soon as it happened, I set to work figuring out how my office's draconian disability options work. The first thing I was told is that before I could even be considered for disability, they would have to burn through all my vacation time, personal days and sick days. 10 days later, they are all gone.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 7:47 PM on May 23, 2011 [12 favorites]


Looking at that chart, it looks like we work slightly shorter hours than Iceland. Now if only we worked a bit harder, we could have the financial success of the Icelanders.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:47 PM on May 23, 2011 [10 favorites]


Big company I work for, you start with three weeks, go up to four after a few years, and have seven personal holidays, above the standard ones.


OK to begin with you're preprogrammed to think that starting with 3 weeks is special. It is above the norm for the US, but it's still crap compared to Europe. The other thing that has always bugged me is that if you work up to four or five weeks at one company you're pretty much screwed if you go to another job. You'll start right over again at 2 weeks (3 if yours lucky.)
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 7:50 PM on May 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


In England, there are some jobs where it's mandated that you take at least one fortnight long holiday a year. The reasoning behind this is that a post can be left uncovered for one week, but at two weeks somebody needs to step in and fill your function to some degree. The idea is that if you've tried to bury any skeletons in the past year, two weeks is long enough for them to be dug up.

Also, if you don't take holiday here, your employer will sometimes offer to pay you the time in lieu, meaning you're paid both for the days you work and the holiday you missed. It can effectively add up to another month's wages to your earnings for that year. Awesome.
posted by Jehan at 7:52 PM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Check out Figure B.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 7:54 PM on May 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


I also kind of thought there were a lot of academics on MeFi. Where are they in these discussions?
There's not really any such thing as "vacation" for an academic. You can always do your own research.

I, on the other hand, am a university staff member, and I get five weeks paid vacation a year, which I am actually permitted to take. We have a couple of seasonal slow periods, and there only need to be a few people in the office at those times. On the other hand, our pay is so low that a lot of my co-workers don't go anywhere on their vacations, because we don't make enough to afford things like hotels. Our trade-off is that we get great benefits but crap pay.
posted by craichead at 8:01 PM on May 23, 2011


Funny how quick people are to generalize about how all Americans do this or that. Big company I work for, you start with three weeks,

I work as a psychic, my powers tell me you graduated college.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:02 PM on May 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's a bit worse for families, especially two-income ones:

1) Vacation policies and schedules have to line up. What good does four weeks do you if your partner only gets two weeks? And even worse when you can only take your kids out of school for spring break or during the summer?

2) How long can you afford to travel when you are buying four airline tickets, a nice hotel room (or two once the kids get older) and eight to twelve meals a day? Plus four tickets to attractions. Even cheap road trips aren't so cheap now that gas is so expensive. Just hope you have a relative who retired to a nice part of the country with a spare room or two.

3) Serious work around the house gets done during vacation time, because that's the only way you can afford to do it. If a task takes 40-60 hours, that's tough to fit into spare weekend time.

It makes the vacation problems of the young and single seem trivial by comparison.
posted by smackfu at 8:05 PM on May 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


I work as a psychic, my powers tell me you graduated college.

Certainly, that's where I learned about broad overgeneralizations.
posted by smackfu at 8:05 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Google had a policy of five weeks of paid vacation a year for folks who'd been there a long time (five years?). It was one of the perqs that made me think long and hard about quitting that job.
posted by Nelson at 8:06 PM on May 23, 2011


2) How long can you afford to travel when you are buying four airline tickets, a nice hotel room (or two once the kids get older) and eight to twelve meals a day?

It isn't hard to shop around and find an extended stay hotel or even short-stay hotel rooms which have a kitchen space, often with enough pots, plates, and utensils to get you cook decent meals. If you have a lengthy vacation, you should plan accordingly. If you can't afford to eat out every meal in your real life, you can't afford it on vacation, either.
posted by hippybear at 8:14 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's a bit worse for families, especially two-income ones

In all seriousness, this is one of the reasons I resist going back to full time employment (or rather, we as a team resist it). My husband no longer works for the amazing-benefits company but by virtue of having worked there, was able to negotiate a relatively generous vacation package at his current place of business. If I go back to work full time, there's no way I'd ever be able to catch up, ever. Between that and the high cost of childcare, at this stage of the game it makes more sense for me to be my own nanny, more or less, and focus my "free" time on the philanthropic endeavors of busting ass volunteering at the school and within the community, with some freelance work when I can get it.
posted by padraigin at 8:15 PM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Certainly, that's where I learned about broad overgeneralizations.

Those who have more vacation time than at least 68% of the American workforce should probably ask for a refund if their school sheltered them from the reality of what the general public faces.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:19 PM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


2) How long can you afford to travel when you are buying four airline tickets, a nice hotel room (or two once the kids get older) and eight to twelve meals a day?

When I was a child, we camped. In tents. Cooked meals on a Coleman stove. Saw incredible natural wonders, large and small. Had amazing logging road adventures. Climbed mountains. Fished from docks and canoed a river. Explored beaches and dunes and canyons. Best vacations ever. Cheap.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:21 PM on May 23, 2011 [20 favorites]


After five years of loyally slogging away behind the espresso bar at Starbucks, I can earn up to 80 hours of paid vacation per year (assuming I work a full-time schedule). A little depressing, considering we're led to believe this is "competitive" with other similar jobs. It may well actually be.

The catch is getting any substantial period of time approved to use vacation. Until that happens I just use a few hours here and there to supplement my paycheck and avoid getting capped out. Woo.
posted by erstwhile at 8:22 PM on May 23, 2011


How many weeks, FFF?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:22 PM on May 23, 2011


You know who else said, "Work makes you free?"
posted by Schmucko at 8:27 PM on May 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


CheeseDigestsAll: "Check out Figure B."
               .--.
              /    \
              |    |
              |    |
              |  _ |
              |    |          ##   ##     ####      ###
              |    |          ##   ##    ##       ##   ##
              |    |          ##   ##      ##     ##   ##
              |  _ |          ##   ##        ##   #### ##
              |    |            ###      ####     ##   ##
        .--.  |    |
       /    \/     |
    .-<.     \     |                
   /    \     \    _\_                  # #   11  
   |     \     \.-')  `.               ##### 111  
 .-L.     \     \-'     \               # #   11  
/    \     \  .')    ,-  \             #####  11  
|     \     \`-' `--\     \             # #  11l1 
| (    \  .')   /    `.   |
| _\    \`-'   /          |
\   \  .')               /
 \   `--'     /         /
  \           |        /
   \                 .'
    \          _ .  /
     \ _ . - '      |
     |              |
     |              |
posted by dunkadunc at 8:28 PM on May 23, 2011 [14 favorites]


Now bend over.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:34 PM on May 23, 2011 [19 favorites]


yeah, I never even looked to see how many days off I was entitled to when I started my new job (teaching k12), because my first day in, I got a school-wide email that said "we have spent $xxxxxx.00 this year on substitutes because some of you are taking days off so don't do that again!"

You're entitled to about three months off/year if you teach public school, and I assume about the same for most private schools. I get two+ months off in the summer, two weeks off for winter break, one week for spring break, one week for president's day (yeah, I know), and four days for thanksgiving, plus some three-day weekends.

I'm not saying that it wouldn't be nice to be able to take the time off when you want to, and you could always argue that teachers don't make as much as private-sector employees with comparable educations so it's basically unpaid time off, but don't expect much sympathy from people who effectively get no time off for the whole year.

I would seriously turn down a job that paid $20,000 or $30,000 more than what I make if it meant I had to give up those three months of vacation. One more month and my wife and I don't have to think about work for two months. And then I get to go back to the best job in the world. Bliss.
posted by Huck500 at 8:36 PM on May 23, 2011


In all seriousness, this is one of the reasons I resist going back to full time employment (or rather, we as a team resist it).

This is where job sharing needs to become an available choice. You need an employer who will allow you to have 0.25—0.75 FTE (full-time equivalent), and someone else 0.25—0.75 FTE, for a total 1.0—1.50 FTE.

A smart employer with 2+ employees would look to expand using job sharing. It makes a business more resilient, able to expand on demand; it means having a key employee hit by a bus doesn't cripple the company; it might even improve communication and process integration, were the employer to have one employee job-share two jobs.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:36 PM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]



Travel is for those who don't live in the greatest nation on earth.

Unfortunately I have had contact with people who really felt that way.
In particular a couple who couldn't understand why we spent our vacations in Europe and South America. '''Don't you want to visit all the states?'''
Uhh. No. Not really.
posted by notreally at 8:36 PM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is where job sharing needs to become an available choice. You need an employer who will allow you to have 0.25—0.75 FTE (full-time equivalent), and someone else 0.25—0.75 FTE, for a total 1.0—1.50 FTE.

You can do this in teaching, too. The parents hate it, though.
posted by Huck500 at 8:39 PM on May 23, 2011


hank_14: "It's a good article, and worth serious discussion, but omg, this bit:

"But is more government regulation the answer? The debate rages on."

That's some of the laziest writing I've ever seen.
"

Oh man I had the same reaction!

Is this A. Pawlowski privy to some inside knowledge? Where the fuck are these debates raging? On a houseboat in the Florida Keys? A NYC rooftop party, a salon in Seattle? I want to know because I like rage and I like debates.

Re: Americans not taking vacations. Take that Third World! Now you know how the good ol' U.S. of fuckin' A became number one!!!!! Woooohooooo...

Signed,
NASCAR EAGLETEARS III
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 8:39 PM on May 23, 2011 [9 favorites]


fxg: Everything from long weekends to what surely must have been a month-long river trek into the Northern wilderness.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:42 PM on May 23, 2011


Academic here. But an Australian one. So I get 4 weeks annual leave a year, like everyone else in the country. Plus sick days. And long-service leave. And personal days. Paid.

US academic librarian here - I get everything here but the long-service leave (and we're fully supported in taking all of it.)

We accrue leave each pay period, but at my grade it works out to ~1 month / year. I generally take one three week vacation, and several long weekends.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:45 PM on May 23, 2011


fxg: Most were a week long, I think. Up to two full days driving out, several days adventure, two days back. More driving than that and you want to start committing to a lot more days off. Break it up a little. And then that gets costly: gas, more fees, possibly more food costs, way more clothing & gear, etc.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:49 PM on May 23, 2011


The academic schedule looks sweet, right up until you see how hard many academics work during those breaks from teaching. That's when you write books, do research, and catch up on all the other stuff that gets set aside when classes are in session.

My vacation time is ok. Not great, but definitely ok. I think people start at about two weeks of personal leave, and that gets bumped up to four fairly quickly. On top of that there are varying amounts of sick leave, bereavement leave, federal holidays, and unannounced days off for whatever reason. And people take their leave days, one at a time or in bigger chunks, so it's not a fictitious policy.
posted by Forktine at 8:55 PM on May 23, 2011


I live in an area of America where I can own a decent house on ~40K a year, I sometimes wish I had a different job, with better pay, but I do get about 6 weeks paid vacation a year that I can take on fairly short notice.
posted by edgeways at 8:59 PM on May 23, 2011


Tangentally, the various Australian Tourism bodies regularly have campaigns encouraging Australians to take their vacation leave, and thereby use it to travel within Australia (even 'just down the road'). This is viewed generally as essential to the national tourism industry.

Does anything like this vibe exist in the US?
posted by jjderooy at 8:59 PM on May 23, 2011


2) How long can you afford to travel when you are buying four airline tickets, a nice hotel room (or two once the kids get older) and eight to twelve meals a day?

This points to another US-Europe difference. I've noticed that staying in hostels in the US, the only people over 25 are vacationing Europeans. The American idea of "vacation" is more luxurious, with lots of pre-conceived (Advertisement-driven?) ideas of what you do: hotel suites, package tours, the best restaurants, etc.
posted by wanderingstan at 9:01 PM on May 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'd like to report in / gloat, and strongly recommend the Malaysian public school system to those who enjoy holidays. And this link is only "official" holidays. Things like a King's decree for the state winning in football, special "planning days" and "school meetings" and other ad-hoc stuff, is in addition to these... and although the hours are 7:45 - 2:30 in theory, in practice most people are gone by lunch time. I am especially partial to the 6 weeks off from late November - the New Year. And in a gesture towards diversity / national unity, we get Hindu holidays, Muslim holidays, Buddhist holidays, Christian holidays... By my rough estimate it looks like we work about 2/3 of the time. Current Status: WINNING!!!1

Oh, did I mention we officially leave at lunch on Thursdays, meaning every weekend is a 2.5 day weekend?
posted by Meatbomb at 9:01 PM on May 23, 2011 [10 favorites]



fxg: Most were a week long, I think. Up to two full days driving out, several days adventure, two days back. More driving than that and you want to start committing to a lot more days off. Break it up a little. And then that gets costly: gas, more fees, possibly more food costs, way more clothing & gear, etc.


Okay, so you understand why people don't want to spend 4 of their only seven (or less) days off in a car, right? And that there aren't always beaches and canyons two days away?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:01 PM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


zardoz wrote: " Generally, people get a week or two every year--unpaid--but nothing guaranteed, unless you're a government employee. "

To be fair, even most fast food jobs have paid vacation for full time employees. It's shit (tops out at 3 weeks a year after a decade of service or something), but it's still there. It's mainly small business that has zero paid vacation, at least in my experience. Even then, "good" places will give at least two weeks a year.

Being a consultant, I get no paid vacation, but I get to take it whenever I want, so it's a wash.

Now, getting people to take vacation is difficult. They seem to think people think less of them for taking their time off. That only happens at employers you don't want to work for anyway, but it's the perception nearly everywhere. My SO's company won't let people lose vacation for just that reason. You either take it when it's convenient for you so you can go do something out of town or you end up being told to stay home for a while to burn up some vacation at a time that isn't so convenient.
posted by wierdo at 9:02 PM on May 23, 2011


Further to the above - the campaign isn't just an advertising campaign. It frequently involves efforts to persuade politicians and commerical interests that vacations are essential for the economy. Ie, the tourism industry is effectively the pressure group FOR vacations (in addition to workers and their reps generally advocating more vacation time)
posted by jjderooy at 9:02 PM on May 23, 2011


feel that things will explode if they take a day or two off. They tend to have a very inflated sense of exactly how important they are (despite working for a company with tens of thousands of employees, which you would think would make it more obvious that a single employee being gone for a week or two will not cause the business to fail).

I, too, work for a company with ten of thousands of employees.

In the last year, I've used exactly no time that was not interrupted by an emergency from work. Last November they called and got me out of bed with influenza and had me working on something when I couldn't stand up. I worked through the last week of the year (which I had scheduled off) because of a crisis. I get text messages telling me about issues at 11pm on a Saturday night. Lest you ask, while my job is significant over a longer stretch of time, nothing I do is so important that these things should be happening. Nonetheless, everyone at work behaves like the world is coming to an end if they get a non-critical error message and I'm not right there to talk them down off the roof and kiss it and make it better.

But that, while annoying, is not the most annoying thing. The most annoying thing is that I'm continually told that I should really take my vacation time in a faux-caring voice, while the fact that there's no backup for my role and it's impossible for me to take any vacation without someone interrupting it means they have created and sustain the situation for which they scold me.

I'm looking for something else right now, and I don't honestly care about how much vacation it comes with - I suspect I won't ever be able to use it all, so what does it matter?
posted by winna at 9:03 PM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


This reminds me of the time my father was managing a plant and was called before the board for having the nerve to request the hiring of 4% more line workers one year.

"Will you meet higher production quotas with these people?" No.
"Will you meet higher quality goals with these extra people?" No.
"Do you need them for safety?" No.
"Then how is it that you need more people to accomplish the same amount of work?"

It was because the plant had been open for four years, and all of the original linesmen were entitled to another week of vacation. A factory can't leave a job undone because that person is away; the staff increase was just barely enough to cover the added vacation periods.
posted by ceribus peribus at 9:10 PM on May 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


Tangentally, the various Australian Tourism bodies regularly have campaigns encouraging Australians to take their vacation leave, and thereby use it to travel within Australia (even 'just down the road'). This is viewed generally as essential to the national tourism industry.

Does anything like this vibe exist in the US?


Um... well, there are always these commercials which appear on various cable and satellite television channels... like "Virginia -- discover the beginning of America" or "Florida -- it's all within reach" or whatever bullshit phrase gets put forward for the year. It always varies by state, and it's always obviously some state's Tourism board trying to boost travel to their area. Lots of footage of families walking through a town center with ice cream or fishing on a lake or watching a dramatic sunset...

The thing is, the US is so fucking huge and varied and there's so much here already, a good percentage of the population will live for 80 years and die without ever leaving the country's borders, sometimes not even leaving their STATE'S borders. I know people who live in Eastern Washington who have never been to Seattle or Portland or Boise. When they go on vacation, they go to the cabin their family has owned for decades on the lake which is 20 miles away, or whatever.

But most of our Western states are larger than most European countries. Hell, some counties in western states are larger than states in New England.

This is a big place, and so yeah... there's encouragement to do tourism within the country's borders. But I doubt it's anything like what you're talking about. It's much more low-key and "here's where you can go to get away" than "hey, you can help our tourism by going here".
posted by hippybear at 9:11 PM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


So many companies have laid off so many workers by now that no one has a back-up and everyone is essential. How can you take vacation when you are the only one left in the department who knows how to do your job? Train a co-worker to take over? He/she's already doing two jobs and can't possibly do yours too.
posted by octothorpe at 9:12 PM on May 23, 2011 [12 favorites]


We get long vacations in Australia. I always forget to take them, so I end up using them at the end of the year. I'm kinda gobsmacked that I can just take time off. And take sick days.

I don't have the money to travel overseas and the only other real city in Australia is Melbourne, so I usually use the time to play XBox, though last year I filmed a movie and this year I flew interstate to see a band.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:13 PM on May 23, 2011


Travel is for those who don't live in the greatest nation on earth.

You're joking, but I used to live in Connecticut. People ask me if I'd travelled to see the rest of America. I always respond that I was an hour from New York and 3 hours from Boston, so why would I need to see the rest of it?

If there isn't much in your country of course you'll place a high value on travel.

I also think working reduces depression. Becker talks about it in 'Denial of Death'. Without that purpose every day your mind starts to wander into bad places.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:16 PM on May 23, 2011


I also think working reduces depression. Becker talks about it in 'Denial of Death'. Without that purpose every day your mind starts to wander into bad places.

So, in a country where everyone works and no one takes vacation, everyone is chronically depressed?
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:19 PM on May 23, 2011


Okay, so you understand why people don't want to spend 4 of their only seven (or less) days off in a car, right? And that there aren't always beaches and canyons two days away?

Then they choose to spend a ton of money. And there are wonders all over the nation.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:20 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


smackfu wrote: "(personally I don't know how people take three or four weeks off in a row. Is it just that they are completely interchangeable cog in the machine and someone else can easily take over for them?)"

Cross training. And there is this thing called the telephone which does a fantastic job of keeping you in contact if the building really is burning down.


notreally wrote: "In particular a couple who couldn't understand why we spent our vacations in Europe and South America. '''Don't you want to visit all the states?'''
Uhh. No. Not really.
"

You'd be surprised, but they're actually all quite interesting in some way or another. At least a small part of each of them anyway. I had, until last week, not ever seen the volcano field in Northeastern New Mexico. Hell, I didn't even know it existed until I was driving by. And I also found that there's some surprisingly interesting topography in parts of the Texas panhandle. (not the western part, which is as flat as can be)
posted by wierdo at 9:23 PM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


So many companies have laid off so many workers by now that no one has a back-up and everyone is essential. How can you take vacation when you are the only one left in the department who knows how to do your job? Train a co-worker to take over? He/she's already doing two jobs and can't possibly do yours too.

This leads me to something I have been thinking on for a while. Currently our unemployment rate is around 9%. The last time the Dow was as high as it is now, roughly exactly 4 years ago or end of April 2007, the unemployment rate was 4.7%.

I realize there does not need to be a direct correlation between these two measurements, but it does lead to the question: if jobs aren't being (re)created, where's all the money going?
posted by contessa at 9:24 PM on May 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


They tend to have a very inflated sense of exactly how important they are

The issue is exactly as octothorpe said. I've gotten calls while getting a tooth extracted, that was a fun conversation when I called back. I get calls routinely on the weekends or 4 am. We have had to fly people back from vacation for emergencies. We have been through 5 rounds of layoffs in the past 12 months. We have nobody who knows how to order office supplies, I don't know who to call anymore for firewall or network issues, we have an entire floor near wall street with 4 employees right now. The company isn't in financial trouble,they are just trying to bring down spending temporarily so they can hit their targets and get bonuses, there is a disconnect between the CEO who spends half his time in washington, the senior management who's main job it is to glad-hand and the people who get the work done. 3-4 months we will be staffed up again.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:26 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


In the last year, I've used exactly no time that was not interrupted by an emergency from work.

A coworker and friend knew his time was coming to an end at his previous company when he took a day off and his office mates kept calling his cell phone to pepper him with support questions. It would have perhaps been understandable, if he hadn't been at his uncle's funeral.
posted by verb at 9:27 PM on May 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Wow. Just, wow.

My state government job pays pretty poorly but I do get almost six weeks off a year (including sick days) and my boss is great about me taking them. Christ almighty, I'm staying put.
posted by 5ean at 9:27 PM on May 23, 2011


I always feel really guilty when I take sick days.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:31 PM on May 23, 2011


So, in a country where everyone works and no one takes vacation, everyone is chronically depressed?

Yeah, but we've got great drugs for that.
posted by verb at 9:31 PM on May 23, 2011


I also think working reduces depression. Becker talks about it in 'Denial of Death'. Without that purpose every day your mind starts to wander into bad places.

So, in a country where everyone works and no one takes vacation, everyone is chronically depressed?


Nah, that's the opposite of what I said. Work can reduce depression by giving your life a purpose.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:34 PM on May 23, 2011


Americans believe they have it good just because most of them haven't gone outside the states. Yeah...its you guys holding the stars and bars who have never seen how they treat workers in any other civilized country.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:39 PM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


The only place worse than America is South Korea. There are government holidays here, but if they fall on a Saturday or Sunday you're screwed. They don't bump it over to the previous Friday or next Monday.

Hell, most Koreans over 30 remember when the six-day work week was mandatory.

That said, I'm sitting pretty. I teach at a university, so I've got a three day weekend for starters, and the months of August and February off.

I make less than most of the people I graduated college with. But I also don't pay rent, have to own a car, solid and cheap health insurance, and month-long vacations throughout Asia.

Trying to decide between a month in India or a month in New Zealand next. Guess I'll just have to do them both.
posted by bardic at 9:40 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Kinda thread shitting I guess but I work for a company that gives me 6 weeks of vacation time (after 5 years, 4 weeks before that) along with personal days and sick time. It also rolls over, up to a cap at which point you can cash it out. And while you have to schedule your time off in a responsible fashion (ie, not right before a big product launch or in the middle of something, etc) they encourage you to take time off, in multi-week bunches even.

otherwise though.. yeah vacation is kinda fucked in the US, more so because of the attitude towards actually using it than anything else (in my limited experience anyway).
posted by Godspeed.You!Black.Emperor.Penguin at 9:40 PM on May 23, 2011


Oh, and I never take sick days. Korean work culture is all about demonstrating your mettle and "fighting" through sickness.

It's a huge wake-up call when foreigners come here to teach English and Koreans don't do sick days.

Then again, working one's self to death isn't just common here, it's considered rather noble.
posted by bardic at 9:42 PM on May 23, 2011


Whats really sad is that sometimes I fantasize about being in a car accident, or getting a non-fatal but serious illness that makes me bed ridden so I can have a significant break from work. And I like my job.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 9:47 PM on May 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


bardic, what holds true in Korea holds true here in Japan as well. Absolutely brutal work culture. The good news this year is that I'm an actual full-time teacher at my junior high school now. The bad news is that I now have at least two or three six day weeks a month now. Yes, August off helps, but lord, it's expensive, and while I used to have most of March off, it looks more and more like I'll be working straight through til the year starts in April. There are theoretical days off, but we're really only supposed to take them if we don't actually have classes on days we're supposed to be here.

The uni job I had was magical, too. Four days a week, usually five or six hour days, two months in summer, then February and March off. It was fantastic except for the actual working part, which was brutally depressing, and made me want to quit teaching.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:52 PM on May 23, 2011


As someone that tries really hard to work as little as possible, all the stories about working so much are extremely terrifying. Really.
posted by alex_skazat at 9:52 PM on May 23, 2011 [15 favorites]


alex_skazat has a point. I mean, who the hell wants to work? I mean, really? Yet, if you say anything like "I'd rather not be here" or "I wish I could take the day off today" it's like you just shat in the pool. It's insanity. Workers being happy and contented? That smacks of socialism! Burn them!
posted by Ghidorah at 9:56 PM on May 23, 2011 [9 favorites]


I've always seen accrued vacation time as an insurance policy if I get laid off or leave the job. Having a extra weeks pay or two comes in handy in those situations.
posted by dr_dank at 9:57 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, as someone who has always taken all her vacation time, I know the pressure not to do it. But I've pretty much always taken the attitude of "Fuck 'Em." Especially since I've been indispensable at all of my jobs. Is leaving for two weeks really difficult when you're the only one doing your job? Yes. But dammit, it's my right and they can fire me if they want. Which I've always been confident they won't do.

Then there's unpaid overtime, which if you ask me is the real problem for workers. I remember my first day working a real I'm-out-of-college job. Hours were 8-5. Me and two other girls started the same day. Five o'clock came, we looked around, but no one moved to leave. Minute after minute went by with us looking at each other. Finally, we had to ask our boss if we could leave. One girl asked why no one else was leaving. "Oh, well, I guess they have work to do, or something." HAHAHAHA. If only I knew then about the Saturdays and the late nights till 10PM.

My response to any insinuation that I or my coworkers were not working enough, coming in too late, or whatever, was "Oh, yeah? Put in a timeclock, then." They shut up real fast contemplating how much OT they'd have to pay if there was a verifiable means of proving hours worked.

Oh course, then you'd get situation like my husband's job, which, as a more blue-collar job does have a timeclock. Company policy is that if you're late or miss work three times in a quarter, you get suspended without pay. That includes if you're 1 minute late three times. That also includes if you call in sick. So my husband was ill and ended up being hospitalized. He got two marks against him from that illness, and then one day he was 1 minute late clocking in, because he helped someone carry something in. Three days suspension.

Management is fucking insane in this country.
posted by threeturtles at 10:19 PM on May 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


I wonder about people who are so essential that they can't take vacation, but aren't essential enough to be worried about their job if they do take vacation.
posted by jjderooy at 10:23 PM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh, and I forgot the best bit about the insanity that is my husband's company policy. When he started, he thought (because he was told) that his two weeks off was all the time he got, sick and vacation. PTO, in other words. Except he had some serious health problems and keep asking questions about paid sick time and what the actual written policy was. He was then told that they do, in fact, get paid sick time, unlimited. That you can take as much sick as you want, provided you have documentation, etc.

But then they told him not to tell his coworkers that they had sick time, because they didn't want it getting around.

I know in his place, I would have told. I probably would have lead a worker's rebellion. Good thing he's not me, cause damn we need that job.
posted by threeturtles at 10:32 PM on May 23, 2011


Another one of my employers, who knew I was out with pneumonia, insisted I come in and finish some code for a deadline. I told them 'no' between wracking coughs. They insisted again, claiming that deadlines are deadlines. I stood firm.

Jesus, what a messed up environment.

posted by zippy at 10:36 PM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


notreally
In particular a couple who couldn't understand why we spent our vacations in Europe and South America. '''Don't you want to visit all the states?'''Uhh. No. Not really.

While I don't begrudge you for wanting to travel out of country, it's not like there aren't lots of interesting places to go in the States.

Personally, one of my goals is to eventually visit every National Park.
posted by Target Practice at 10:37 PM on May 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Personally, one of my goals is to eventually visit every National Park.

Yeah. I've not even come close. There are some parks you can go back to over and over, like Yellowstone, and never feel like you've been to the same place twice.

And others, like the Grand Canyon, which unless you're going to do extensive hiking or rafting, are difficult to comprehend.

And then there are all the National Monuments... Which is another layer of places to visit entirely...

and then all the State Parks.....

You could easily spend a lifetime visiting non-Urban spaces in the US and still have a hard time hitting all of them even once.
posted by hippybear at 10:42 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder about people who are so essential that they can't take vacation, but aren't essential enough to be worried about their job if they do take vacation.

Well there is essential in the long term and essential in the short term. Someone who is essential in the short term, putting out fires, keeping things running, can be replaced pretty quickly. I can't take clients, I have no real deep industry knowledge or connections. When push comes to shove , everyone is replaceable, it is just a matter of how much pain the will go though. Me not so much, the top salesperson, maybe a lot.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:43 PM on May 23, 2011


Yes, everyone is replacable. Against that, there is the pain of replacing you, which should always be emphasised! :)
posted by jjderooy at 10:50 PM on May 23, 2011


Personally, one of my goals is to eventually visit every National Park.

You'd better hurry while they still ARE National Parks. Or, if you wait, there will only be 4 or 5 left.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:50 PM on May 23, 2011


smackfu writes "personally I don't know how people take three or four weeks off in a row. Is it just that they are completely interchangeable cog in the machine and someone else can easily take over for them?"

Very few workers are completely irreplaceable. Certainly less than 1%. After all we don't see companies failing on a daily basis when Alice or Bob gets killed in one of the 40,000 traffic fatalities every year. I'd bet at least 50% of workers are mostly interchangeable. The guy slinging coffee or working a cash register or nursing or working a switch board can be replaced with a few days training by someone with similar experience. When taking multiple weeks at a time is expected people plan for it. Cross training should be in place simply for continuity purposes when John wins the lottery or is out for a week with a heart attack. That companies are loading so much extra work on so few people is going to bite them in the long term.
posted by Mitheral at 10:52 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know what is shocking to me? That this discussion has turned into "well, if you take a vacation, you're obviously replaceable at your job".

That's seriously fucked up shit, that worldview.
posted by hippybear at 10:54 PM on May 23, 2011 [30 favorites]


Your country is insane.

In Australia, you can pretty much assume that for the last two weeks of december and first two weeks of january that everyone in an office job will be away from their desks. The PM spends a few weeks out of town too.
posted by wilful at 10:55 PM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


"they told him not to tell his coworkers that they had sick time"

Sounds exactly like the factory I used to work in. Management was basically all about playing divide and conquer with the workers, sometimes actively inciting rivalries and petty arguments between us as much as possible. That, and the known fact that even mentioning the word "union" was grounds for being fired immediately.

This was in Washington State btw, a place that has relatively strong pro-labor laws.

We were basically on a "need to know" basis when it came to crucial things like vacation and sick days and what happened if you got injured on the job. (It has heavy manufacturing, so this happened a lot.)

Yeah, other than my family, I can't say I miss much about America. Korea can be pretty brutal as well, but I wouldn't give up my current job for anything.
posted by bardic at 10:57 PM on May 23, 2011


Also, this is entirely bitchy on my part but when someone tells me they're irreplaceable they're usually incompetent, and know it.
posted by bardic at 10:58 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


If more people took more vacation, we could reduce unemployment.

uh oh I think I just broke my brain and need to call in a personal day tomorrow
posted by not_on_display at 11:02 PM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is the worst thing for me about moving from Ireland to America and I guess I do complain about it lots. I get 12 days a year (2 days of which have to be taken either at Christmas or Thanksgiving) so any vacations I take are generally 1 week long, timed to maximize the time based on weekends or public holidays (we used to get two days for Thanksgiving aka bang-for-your-buck week, sadly not anymore). So not only is it difficult to plan and take a vacation, but my girlfriend often says I shouldn't take another week off at the end of the year because it'll look bad. I usually have this look that basically says 'Fuck that!' I don't care if it looks bad that I want to potentially take a (gasp) third week off to go home at Christmas and visit my family.

(I also have a problem with the dead space public holiday wise between new year and memorial day. I'm so used to having St. Patricks day, followed by Easter Monday, followed by May bank holiday)
posted by TwoWordReview at 11:06 PM on May 23, 2011


"If more people took more vacation, we could reduce unemployment."

About a century ago Bertrand Russell suggested a mandatory 20-hour work week limit to eliminate unemployment.

He was right then, and he's still right.
posted by bardic at 11:07 PM on May 23, 2011 [18 favorites]


This thread scares me so much. Not just that it happens, but that the reaction is mildly frustrated 'that's the way it is' instead of outrage. I know it would seem normal growing up in it, but it's so completely foreign to me.

As for being 'essential'... when my boss went on 3 weeks leave, he arranged it so it wasn't during a particular crucial time of the year, and everyone below him stepped up a notch. A little of his work wasn't done, so he did that when he came back. A little of the minor stuff wasn't done, so we caught up on that when he came back. Not only did he get three weeks off, but we all got valuable experience. When I took a month off, he and others covered for me and it was no big deal.

Also, I get the impression that annual leave in the US expires at the end of the year. Is this true as well? It doesn't roll over and accumulate if it's untaken? That's... also seems quite unfair.
posted by twirlypen at 11:08 PM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


My Korean co-worker, recently married, told me: "My honeymoon must be wonderful because for me it will be the last vacation for maybe 5 or 10 years". I have co-workers show up on death's door because taking a day off is so frowned upon. It's kind of surreal.
posted by GilloD at 11:09 PM on May 23, 2011


"annual leave in the US expires at the end of the year"

It completely depends on where you work.
posted by bardic at 11:20 PM on May 23, 2011


In the military, everyone from the snuffliest private to the general with 10 pounds of shiny stuff on his shirt all accrue 30 days of leave each year. That being said, the job I work now is shift work, so I don't get normal holidays, or get paid extra if I work on Christmas. Also my supervisor has told all of us we will never get more than two weeks off at a time. So I mostly plan on scheduling a bunch of long weekends off while I'm here, then selling my leave at the end of my tour (which caps out at 60 vacation days).
posted by QuarterlyProphet at 11:20 PM on May 23, 2011


In Finland we also have an option for what is called "Job alternation leave" (vuorotteluvapaa). If you have been employed for at least 10 years by the same employer, you can take between 90 - 359 days of continuous leave.

During this time you are compensated 70-80% of the unemployment allowance to which you would be entitled whilst unemployed on the basis of the Unemployment Security Act. The unemployment allowance varies depending on the Unemployment Fund, but it is around 45-50% of the persons last wage. So you are paid approximately 1/3 of your normal wage for the time of the job alternation leave.

The employer is also required to hire an unemployed jobseeker registered with an employment office for the period of the job alternation leave.
posted by baueri at 11:24 PM on May 23, 2011 [17 favorites]


When I was honeymooning with my wife in France, one of the cleaning crew patiently explained to me why France was so much better than the U.S. because of their extensive holidays.

She told me that she got 5 paid weeks a year off. I didn't have the heart to tell her I get 6. Now I get 3 plus 2 weeks sick days (which are basically vacation days that can't be taken in advance), but bump up to 4 plus 2 weeks sick next year. I can't complain.

Also, I get the impression that annual leave in the US expires at the end of the year. Is this true as well? It doesn't roll over and accumulate if it's untaken? That's... also seems quite unfair.

Every workplace is different. My wife gets ZERO vacation days--she just negotiates time off with her manager. That sounds absolutely insane to me, but it works for them I guess.

But no, I have never had vacation time expire at the end of the year. In fact, one company gave us 1 week a year extra if we kept our year-end balance below 40 hours.

In general, in the U.S., you acquire vacation hours and are paid for them if you end your job with a positive balance.

If more people took more vacation, we could reduce unemployment.

uh oh I think I just broke my brain and need to call in a personal day tomorrow


It's not a new concept, but the 30-hour work week would create a LOT of new jobs. It's been one of the planks of the Peace & Freedom Party platform forever.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:29 PM on May 23, 2011


In Australia, you can pretty much assume that for the last two weeks of december and first two weeks of january that everyone in an office job will be away from their desks. The PM spends a few weeks out of town too.


Well yeah, that's when the waves of dingos come.
Id get the eff out of Dodge too.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:31 PM on May 23, 2011


The corporate fecalocracy can get away with this because your other option is nothing. The corporate fecalocracy can get away with this because your other option is Wal Mart. The corporate fecalocracy can get away with this is because the only alternative to your despised "soul-killing office job" is a job where you have to wear a uniform. A uniform. An outfit that announces to the entire world that you are beneath them. The corporate fecalocracy can get away with this because Ayn Rand said so. The corporate fecocracy can get away with this because, if you are not rich, it is your own fault. The corporate fecalocracy can get away with this because even poor, uninsured, trailer dwelling folk would rather vote for flag-waving racists than admit that people in other countries are sometimes right about things. The corporate fecalocracy can get away with this because I GOT MINE SO FUCK YOU.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:34 PM on May 23, 2011 [20 favorites]


Live to work or work to live? That seems to be the difference.
USA used to have unions to help you get decent working hours and conditions
but you destroyed them either physically or mentally (communist scum).
Why does this never come up in your electioneering "Quality time for quality people" or something equally trite.
Then there are people here who don't take their holidays? really? You are so pressured that you can't or won't exert your right to take what is yours? Roll over for the man much?
Then there are others who don't know what to do with their time off.
Makes my head spin.
I am luckily outside of this game as I am self employed in Spain .
(30 days holidays 14 national fiestas some local fiestas and some stretched into long weekends; with summer working hours 1 June - 1 Sept - finishing at 1500 hrs.)
So I think I will go to the beach today.
Mind you if I don't work, I don't get paid; and if I don't get paid I don't eat just like you worker bees.
posted by adamvasco at 11:43 PM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Why would I want to travel the United States? I've got all the Applebees, Starbucks and McDonalds I need within a mile radius. Travelling is for suckers.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:51 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am luckily outside of this game as I am self employed absorbed in Spain .

posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:52 PM on May 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


BTW Im not saying that because of the truth of what you said, but how you said it and your brilliant assumption that everyone has access to the same options as you do.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:53 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


(personally I don't know how people take three or four weeks off in a row. Is it just that they are completely interchangeable cog in the machine and someone else can easily take over for them?)

It's just the opposite: if you are an inflexible part (a cog) in an inflexible machine (a watch, for example), you cannot ever go anywhere or the entire machine will halt.

If you are a flexible employee on a flexible team in a flexible company, you and your department know how to schedule vacations and work properly so that you have a balance between home and work. Most people everywhere are not working at 100 percent capacity -- are you accessing MetaFilter from work? -- so almost every department everywhere has extra capacity ready to kick in when someone in the department takes a vacation.

To take a decent vacation, you schedule it for a slow time (for you) in the project schedule and you get all of the planning out of the way before you go so others can (if needed) execute your plans while you're gone. Say you work in a software shop. You probably have a release schedule planned out pretty far in advance, and almost anyone is going to have a slack phase in there somewhere. You find a slack time and you go to Tahiti with no phone or email access.

Company owners will naturally wring every last drop of blood out of their employees if they are given the opportunity -- they didn't get to the top of big companies by not being cutthroat assholes -- but a little government intervention could bring sanity to your situation. The government is supposed to be on your side, not on the side of company owners pretending to represent your best interests.
posted by pracowity at 11:53 PM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Dammit I want to say so much about this, but I just started a new job so I'll have to wait a year for any paid time off while I keep my old job too and work 30 hours in the next two days, but I don't have health care anymore, wish me luck (but hey at least I'm fortunate to have more than zero jobs)
I really wanna be angry about this, having lived in Europe and seen freedom practiced instead of used as slogan, but goddammit I'm too tired to think, gotta get to bed and get up.
posted by hypersloth at 11:59 PM on May 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


Why would I want to travel the United States? I've got all the Applebees, Starbucks and McDonalds I need within a mile radius.

Hahaha, you're silly, that's not foreign!

You should try Olive Garden, we have it around it, it's authentic Italian! Also, Taco Bell is a taste of the spicy Mexican! They are open late.

I always see different people working at them, they must give their employees lots of time off!

America is best!
posted by formless at 12:00 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


My wife's previous company (a big corporate law firm in Australia) would give their lawyers five weeks leave, only on the condition that they used up their first four.
posted by wilful at 12:01 AM on May 24, 2011


One of our competitors was chatting up their new "liberal" PTO policy, where anyone could take any time they wanted to as long as "it worked out for the projects they were working on."

Oh dear god. I worked at a company where this was the policy. I remember asking for a couple weeks off, and the ceo, TO MY FACE asked me "are you smoking crack?!" His reason was that we had to meet this (entirely self-imposed) deadline, for a product that nobody ever asked for, and that (two years later) nobody still uses.

I was gone a month later.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:12 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


She told me that she got 5 paid weeks a year off. I didn't have the heart to tell her I get 6. Now I get 3 plus 2 weeks sick days (which are basically vacation days that can't be taken in advance), but bump up to 4 plus 2 weeks sick next year. I can't complain.

That's great, but I doubt that you're a cleaner at a hotel.
posted by atrazine at 12:41 AM on May 24, 2011 [19 favorites]


I work at a university in the US. I voluntarily work part-time, because that suits my family's needs. My husband works full-time and that's how we have benefits (not that I visit a doctor like I should because that would be more unpaid time off). He hesitates about taking sick, vacation or any other leave. I know that if I'm taking an hour or a day that I'm inconveniencing my crew. The thing is, I'm also making less money. There have been times when I really cannot take time off and he can take paid time off where I've had to push him to do it. He still gets phone calls at all hours.

I work about 24 hours a week. There is no reason I couldn't be having a 50% covered job, have half half benefits, and be a generally happier person with a little extra money an a lot better attitude.

When I interviewed with my current boss, I explained my "European" approach to life and work, and I'm glad I was upfront about it. When I work, I work hard and am proud of my accomplishments. I'm going to take a week off (unpaid) pretty soon, because I haven't had a vacation in almost 2 years and it's just time. As it is, the kids are in two different schools and my house is a petri dish of illness (middle school, junior high, and two adults working at a university), so there have been many unplanned days off. What am I supposed to do? Pay someone half of what I make hourly to watch a sick child?
posted by lilywing13 at 12:43 AM on May 24, 2011


You guys heard about the 11-day weekend we just had in the UK, right? And we've another long weekend next week?

Or the concept of Bridge Days in Italy and France, where many of the public holidays are on Thursdays, and no one is expected back on the Friday?

Well, it's a different culture, and all that, but what I don't get is the concept of having to use your scant holiday days for the days around Christmas and Thanksgiving. Is that true? I mean, with two weeks holiday a year most of it must be taken up by just those two things.
posted by DangerIsMyMiddleName at 1:07 AM on May 24, 2011


I really want to comment in this thread but I need to get back to work.





Sadly, the above is not a joke :(
posted by jet_manifesto at 1:13 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]



Another reason I want to get the fuck out of the United States and never look back.


Sounds like there's a lot of that going around. Seriously, why do so many of the very angry here not do just that? This is a serious question. I'd love to find a better place to live than the US. But I've never found one. Then again, I have yet to explore Africa, Asia or South America. Should I hold out hope for those regions of the globe?

About a century ago Bertrand Russell suggested a mandatory 20-hour work week limit to eliminate unemployment.

He was right then, and he's still right.


Not everyone would appreciate having their hours cut so that someone else could be equally underemployed. This is just a really shitty idea that's broken from every angle, taking a questionable assumption how economic growth works, and metastasizing it with the power of governmental enforcement. The mandatory work limit is something that need to be implemented with a good deal of wisdom and reason to minimize unfair exploitation and maximize individual free choice.
posted by 2N2222 at 1:20 AM on May 24, 2011


Not everyone would appreciate having their hours cut so that someone else could be equally underemployed.

Yeah, except unemployment would be something like -20%, as companies would be scrambling to find people to fill all the necessary positions, meaning wages would go up quickly in order to fill positions, etc.

Or you could grandfather in current employees or something. New employees would be happy about getting a new job.
posted by delmoi at 1:26 AM on May 24, 2011


Seriously, why do so many of the very angry here not do just that

I did. 5 years ago. Was a professional artist and graphic designer in New York with 2 weeks off annually, which I discouraged to take.

Moved to the UK, now I'm a teacher and have 3 months off a year, making comparable money with a much higher quality of life. Free heatlh care too.

Vita brevis. I don't think anyone lies on their deathbed wishing they bought more crap.
posted by Hickeystudio at 1:28 AM on May 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


(personally I don't know how people take three or four weeks off in a row. Is it just that they are completely interchangeable cog in the machine and someone else can easily take over for them?)

If your company is anything other than a startup, a cutting-edge research lab, or tiny family-owned hardware-type business and one of your employees is irreplacable, your company is run by morons. People have heart attacks. The have strokes. The get run over by buses. If your company will literally stop working until a replacement is found and up to speed YOUR COMPANY IS FUCKED.

I'll say it again. F U C K E D.

There is no way in hell anything other than tiny businesses or very special cases shouldn't have multiple people capable of doing a given task, unless it's run by morons.

If you have irreplacable individuals, you're a heart attack away from bankruptcy.

And as someone who works in the banking sector I'll echo a comment made upstream: they're damn sure they want me taking leave, because it's really hard to fiddle the books if you're away for a couple of weeks every year. It's also a great way of finding out which systems people haven't documented, trained colleagues on, or are generally great big bodge jobs that represent a hazard to the reputation of the organisation.

And speaking as someone who gets a standard NZ 4 week leave package, a bonus week for random family "stuff" (sick kid, wife), and unlimited sick leave (albeit with a review if you're so continually ill you can no longer do your job), there's no way in hell you'd convince me to go to some bullshit one week, two weeks that you're never allowed to take job in the States. Especially coupled with the fucked up uncompensated 50+ working hour weeks that seem routine.
posted by rodgerd at 1:30 AM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


Odd annual leave trivia - the 8 weeks of long service leave that Australians and New Zealanders get after 10 years in a job (on top of normal annual leave) is originally because we needed that long to get over to Mother England and back.

It's comments like this, twirlypen, that make me better understand Canadians.

New Zealanders do not have long service leave after 10 years of employment, by way of legislation, as do Australians. They would only do so if specified in their individual employment contracts and there would only be very few legacy employees in this position. Why Australians assume that what applies in Australia, also applies in New Zealand, is beyond me. Actually it isn't beyond me, but nonetheless makes me angry, when they blindly assume that we are somehow the same. We are not. We are different.

Much like Canadians feel about America, I guess.
posted by vac2003 at 1:36 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Not everyone would appreciate having their hours cut so that someone else could be equally underemployed. This is just a really shitty idea that's broken from every angle

Yeah, that's why French unemployment has come down since it implemented that to 9.5%, while the US has the staggeringly lower rate of... 8.7%. While France enjoys a substantially superior Gini coefficient, and a per-capita income comparison of $32,000 vs $30,000. Clearly crippled.
posted by rodgerd at 1:38 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you have irreplacable individuals, you're a heart attack away from bankruptcy.

On the other hand, if you have replaceable individuals, you can easily fire them for taking a vacation day.
posted by dirigibleman at 1:42 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Seriously, why do so many of the very angry here not do just that

Why do so many battered wives stick with their abused husbands?
posted by dirigibleman at 1:45 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


abusive husbands.
posted by dirigibleman at 1:45 AM on May 24, 2011


I tried to find some international statistics on workplace violence, but couldn't. It seems to me like the US is the international leader in workplace shootings, and I'd be interested to see if the numbers back me up. (Would I become consumed by rage if I never got any time off? You betcha! Luckily I live in a socialist hellhole Norway, so I get five weeks off per year to contemplate my lack of freedom and opportunity.)
posted by Harald74 at 1:59 AM on May 24, 2011


Vita brevis. I don't think anyone lies on their deathbed wishing they bought more crap.

On woot, when you view your account page, the text "secretly determines if you get into heaven" appears above your purchase history.
posted by zippy at 2:06 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Academic here. But an Australian one. So I get 4 weeks annual leave a year, like everyone else in the country. Plus sick days. And long-service leave. And personal days. Paid.

Didn't the Howard government reduce this to 2 weeks plus 2 weeks which can be traded for pay?
posted by acb at 2:28 AM on May 24, 2011


(personally I don't know how people take three or four weeks off in a row. Is it just that they are completely interchangeable cog in the machine and someone else can easily take over for them?)

Let's hope someone from civilization (the UK, Germany, France, Sweden, Spain) can pop in and answer that for us. I would be interested to know that as well, since as far as most of us have been led to believe, that would lead to TOTAL ORGANIZATIONAL COLLAPSE.


As others have said, planning. (Reminder, I live in France, originally from Oregon USA. Spent a couple years in Finland, have been in France for 13 years all told.) I recently had to (yes, had to, we're required to use all of our vacation days) plan my summer vacation, which, in the grand French tradition (mild sarcasm intended there), shall be in August. I phoned my manager, asked when other people would be gone – July, as it happens – and we worked it out so that there's a week of overlap between the two of us who do roughly the same job. In other words, she gets back a week before I leave.

The other advantage of grouped vacation-taking like you often see in France is that, well, there's not much work :) It will be pretty easy for my colleague to handle my workload since nearly everyone else will be on vacation – my workload during that time will be practically non-existent, as will hers.

Total vacation days: 25 base days plus 1.5 extra since I've been with my current company for five years. (Yes, we can take half-days, it's practical when you have something like a plumber or electrician visit to do.) Then 2 bridge days – I'm taking one next Friday, actually, since Thursday is Ascension here –, and 10 RTT days. Total: 38.5 days/year. About 8 weeks, basically (we only work 5-day work weeks, so I divide by 5 rather than 7, the weekends are a given). RTT days are linked to the 35-hour work week. In our company we work 40 hours/a week and so get these RTTs for the equivalent of a 35-hour work week.

Sick days are basically unlimited – you have to be ill, like, every single day for 2 consecutive years before your salary is no longer entirely guaranteed by the health care system. (It does happen in cases of severe depression, but it's rather rare.) Last year I was ill for 3 months straight: didn't spend a penny for any of the care I received, my salary continued to be paid (100%), and, obviously, I kept my job. Heck, I even got a raise.

It really helps keep people at an equal footing, is the thing. You can't work overtime unless you're in sales, and even then they often work "off the books" (don't declare all of their overtime hours) because overtime legislation is such a pain. In short, you give people who have families, and/or rich social lives, or exciting off-the-job hobbies, or a furry purring fluffball (that would be me), a leg up. And people who want to work long hours also have that choice, like highly-motivated salespeople. It's not as favorable for them, perhaps, but it's a heck of a lot more favorable for what I'm guessing is the majority of workers.
posted by fraula at 2:31 AM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


The more I learn about the USA the more it horrifies me. Work until you drop, and when you drop they leave you to die.

5.6 weeks paid leave is mandatory here - and it's not been under debate while all the 'belt tightening' has been going on. Seriously, the principle that happy workers are more productive is long-held (and demonstrated), so not giving holidays is totally counter-productive.
posted by Coobeastie at 2:37 AM on May 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


Forgot to add, for sick days: they work that way (unlimited) because you have to go to the doctor and get official sick leave from them. There's a doctor-signed form for it that you send to the health care system (sérutité sociale) and your office. Doctors will give 2-3 days for a flu (longer if you need, you just go back if you haven't recovered by then), for instance. For us it's no big deal to go to the doctor since, y'know, it's basically free. (One euro after sécu and complementary insurance reimbursements. We pay one euro as a sort of tax to support the system, heh.)

Kind of tangential but even after 13 years in France, I am still seriously weirded out when I pay nothing for prescription meds. Recently they even added generic birth control pills to reimbursed medications – I'm gonna get free birth control!! Holy cow I love this place.
posted by fraula at 2:37 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


sécurité sociale, ack, sorry
posted by fraula at 2:38 AM on May 24, 2011


Seriously, why do so many of the very angry here not do just that

There are reasons to stay somewhere that are not necessarily related to work. All of your family and friends live in country A. All of your spouse's family and friends live in country A. Your kids are in a good school and you would like them to be in that school for the next 10 years or so. You like your house, your land, your pets, your garden, your neighborhood, and so on. "Buck up, kids! You'll make new friends in Wallonia! And Sparky is better off... on the farm." or "Don't worry, honey! If we can't save up enough money on my village teacher's salary, I'm sure your mother and father and seven brothers and sisters and all of your nieces and nephews and poor old Aunt May and Uncle Mordechai and all of the people from the old neighborhood will be able to make the trip up to Lapland every so often."

People are venting their frustration at feeling trapped in a situation that sucks but that they usually cannot find a way out of without abandoning or uprooting everything they love.

Whereas I, well...

I left the USA for good, but let my case be understood: I did not have a spouse or a house, I did not have a kid or squid, I had no kids to pull from school, I barely had a plate or stool. I had a couple friends, but they had moved and all lived far away. I hopped a plane and landed here, and here is now where all is dear.
posted by pracowity at 2:43 AM on May 24, 2011 [19 favorites]


I'm gonna get free birth control!! Holy cow I love this place.

Slow down there fraula. Ain't nothing free about it. In Sweden my employer pays 45% tax on my salary for these "free benefits". What the employer doesn't cover comes out of the almost 50% tax I pay on my income. That's a tax rate of about 66% on an average income.

25 days of holiday, most people get 30 - and an additional 10 national "red" days. Salaries in Sweden are, no surprise, significantly lower than on the continent so people in this country do not have lots of disposable income.

I do not argue the merits of the Swedish welfare model, but as a hard-working, average member of Swedish society I do not for one minute think any of these benefits are "free" or that they do not have a heavy effect on general prosperity.
posted by three blind mice at 2:51 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seriously, why do so many of the very angry here not do just that

Well, it's precisely the highly educated, highly compensated employees who have it easy getting visas and jobs arranged to move to another country. Those are the people who already have the best benefits under the American system, so have the least reason to leave.
posted by atrazine at 2:58 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


(personally I don't know how people take three or four weeks off in a row. Is it just that they are completely interchangeable cog in the machine and someone else can easily take over for them?)

Let's hope someone from civilization (the UK, Germany, France, Sweden, Spain) can pop in and answer that for us. I would be interested to know that as well, since as far as most of us have been led to believe, that would lead to TOTAL ORGANIZATIONAL COLLAPSE.


I live in Germany, and I get 6 weeks of holiday leave (+ up to 14 or 15 public holidays, depending on where they happen to fall on the calendar) allocated to me on the first of the year, and out of that I can take as much as I'd like when I'd like. Personally, I find it too difficult to get back into the swing of working after a month off, so I take two or three weeks here and there, and use some up as bridge days so I can enjoy a four weekend from time to time. It's very easy: I tell my boss "hey, I think I'll take most of July off. Is that OK?" and he'll say "Well, we have a release milestone scheduled for then, so just make sure you've gotten your work done". And then I take care of what I need to take care of and enjoy my holiday. There is no cultural shame in taking time off here - my boss takes a month off every summer, and there are very few people in the office during much of August and the last two weeks of the year. There is never organizational collapse because people plan ahead, and managers delegate routine tasks to someone else. It's the same reason why there's never organizational collapse when people go off on their (6? 9? month long, partially paid) maternity or paternity leave.
posted by cmonkey at 3:06 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Some of you work for some shitty employers or managers. I don't have a ton of vacation but it's never a problem to take it whenever I want, given one or two weeks notice. I make myself available by email and even phone during my vacation to them because nobody has ever abused it, and it is neccesary for certain things we do. Don't your employers or managers want you to be at least mildly happy with your job?

(Nice thing about maintaining email's role as an asynchronous mode of communication-- my coworkers don't expect me to respond to an email right away, just sometime in the next few hours, or 24 if I'm on vacation. I encourage everyone to resist the urge to respond to emails right away. It destroys the most important feature of email...)
posted by thefool at 3:09 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


as a hard-working, average member of Swedish society I do not for one minute think any of these benefits are "free"

No, it's true, nothing you get from any government is free if (?) you are paying more in taxes than you are receiving in services and infrastructure.

In any event, in Sweden it sounds like the standard package -- not free stuff, but things for which you don't have to pay extra -- includes birth control for everyone, which is nice, especially compared to the things you might get (wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, etc.) if you lived in some other country.
posted by pracowity at 3:22 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


At many companies, those evil workers would band together and hassle any co-worker who was working herder than anyone else or otherwise sucking up to the bosses.

Floor boss slides up to me and he says
"Hey sister, you just movin' too fast,
You screwin' up the quota,
You doin' your piece work too fast,
Now you get off your mustang sally
You ain't goin' nowhere, you ain't goin' nowhere."
I lay back. I get my nerve up. I take a swig of Romilar
And walk up to hot shit Dot Hook and I say
"Hey, hey sister it don't matter whether I do labor fast or slow,
There's always more labor after."
She's real Catholic, see. She fingers her cross and she says
"There's one reason. There's one reason.
You do it my way or I push your face in.
We knee you in the john if you don't get off your get off your mustang Sally,
If you don't shake it up baby." Shake it up, baby. Twist & shout"
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:39 AM on May 24, 2011


The reason more angry vacationless Americans aren’t running off to socialist European paradises is because, seriously, it’s not that bloody easy. In the UK, only the extremely wealthy, the extremely educated (depending entirely on their field) or the extremely lucky can get a visa to live and work in England. There are other ways in such as marriage, or having a grandparent from the UK, but that doesn’t apply to very many people at all. If you’re working a mediocre job with shitty management and no PTO, or PTO you can’t take without the risk of looking like a slacker, or PTO that encompasses your sick days, I can almost guarantee that you don’t qualify for a work visa in any country that would treat you better in that respect. There was the option of attending university in the UK – that allowed you to work here for a year, which often led to sponsorship by your company if you were great and they wanted to keep you, but now even that avenue is being closed. Finish your degree and get out, foreigner. I can’t speak to other European countries but I’m sure they’re similar.

I am overwhelmingly grateful that I was able to escape the US after years of working my ass off in jobs where I was barely treated as human, much less given any PTO. After 6 years in the UK I get a little panicky at the idea of not being able to take time off to do things that make me happy, whether that’s a beach vacation or staying home for a day to play Portal 2 or just writing and thinking, and I can’t imagine what my mental state would be if I were still in the US, terrified of getting sick or having to attend a funeral, knowing there would be no guarantee my job would be there when I got back. I fell in love and got married to an Englishman, and I am under no illusions that I would have found my way out of the US otherwise. I feel like I dodged such a bullet.

Also, I had a look at an old pay slip the last time I was visiting the states. I spent almost exactly the same percentage of my income on taxes, SS, and health care in the states as I do here, the only difference being that the NHS doesn’t constantly try to deny me coverage for basic healthcare, unlike the crappy HMO I was with back in the states.
posted by Wroksie at 3:45 AM on May 24, 2011 [16 favorites]


I also kind of thought there were a lot of academics on MeFi. Where are they in these discussions?

UK academic here. I get 31 days of (paid) annual leave, which includes three days that have to be taken right after Christmas, and nine set public holidays. But like other academics said above, this doesn't exactly reflect people's working patterns. My hours are really flexible outside the teaching part of the year, and really non-flexible in term time; I don't think there's any rule saying you can't take annual leave during teaching, but it would be very unusual. If I'm working on my own research, nobody really cares where I'm working or what hours I'm putting in so long as the research is being produced, but there's always more to do than there's time to do it. If you're already a workaholic who loves your research, it's a pretty cushy life.

Our flexible hourly-paid 'casual' staff, like TAs or project assistants, get holidays slightly differently. They're only paid for the hours they worked, but they get pay in lieu of holidays factored into their wages based on those hours worked (X number of paid hours = 1 hour of holiday pay). Works out pretty well.
posted by Catseye at 3:48 AM on May 24, 2011


What's amazing to me is that for how many responses this post has received from Americans complaining about how things are, there were only one or two references to unions. Unfortunately, I think most folks forget the reason for collective bargaining is to help employees to get a fair shake.

And yet I constantly hear the refrain that "knowledge workers" don't need unions.
posted by SteveInMaine at 3:48 AM on May 24, 2011 [10 favorites]


Every place I've worked as an adult has had a pretty basic two-weeks-a-year package to start out. (One thing I do know about the place I'm working now is that you can cash out unused vacation hours, which is nice. Other than that, I'm not sure on the specifics.)

The amount of vacation time I'd get has never been a deal maker or breaker for me; I'm more partial to jobs where I'd get to have more days off in a week. So right now, I work three or four 12-hour shifts a week and the rest of the time is for relaxing, errands, catching up on housework, television, etc. I could use those days off to work a second job like a lot of my coworkers do, but I get by fine without having to do so.

Then again, I'm not that important. So on one hand, the place runs just fine without me and I'm pretty easily replaceable, but on the other hand, I don't have so much responsibility and stress that I feel like I really need to take a large chunk of time away.

I have sympathy for the people who feel like they must fill every waking hour with work, whether out of financial necessity or because their employer puts that much pressure on them. I also realize that I'm lucky not to be in that situation myself.
posted by and miles to go before I sleep at 3:50 AM on May 24, 2011


Ain't nothing free about it.

I get more left wing in terms of economic models as I get older, reason being that I'm sick of paying the debt tax that is required to be an adult in my country (UK). We have ridiculously overpriced housing, travel, food etc that all strip huge amounts from your monthly wage and it into the pockets of shysters who are lucky enough to run the debt system. The only thing that is still 'free' is healthcare.

I'd be happier to earn less and pay more in tax if I was paying less in rent, mortgage etc because my country believed in and taxed for social housing and other services. It's simple self interest.
posted by Summer at 3:55 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Summer, you know the NHS isn't free, right? Your tax burden covers it. Anyway, I know this is anecdotal, but I paid a far greater percentage of my income for food and housing in the US, in a supposedly inexpensive area, than I do here in the UK. Taxes were about the same. There was no option for public transport, and the only reason petrol seems reasonably priced in the US is because it's kept artificially low by subsidies that are helping the environment.

I'm not disagreeing with you that the debt burden is a bitch, and I 100% agree about being happier to pay more taxes for more services, but in my experience the UK is way ahead of the US in standard of living.
posted by Wroksie at 4:03 AM on May 24, 2011


UK accountant here, about to move jobs. Both old job and new job have 25 days of holiday per year (plus the UK bank holidays and national holidays). Both also have the option to buy or sell up to 5 days of holiday each year and the ability to carry forward up to 5 days at the end of a year. (If you are being promoted then this means you could in theory clear a small profit by buying holiday at a lower pay grade and then selling it the following year at your higher pay grade).

In addition to the contracted holiday, the company I am leaving allowed me 3.5 hours per month of 'Corporate Social Responsibility' time which I personally use to attend school governor meetings. One of my first questions in my interview for the new job was whether I would still be able to do this. They said yes without batting an eyelid.
posted by jonnyploy at 4:07 AM on May 24, 2011


The reason Americans have less holidays or "holy days" than us human beings is because they are less "holy". Some of them are actually quite sinful, and often think disgusting, sexual thoughts - thoughts that involve unseemly conjugations of more than one person - often two unrelated persons meeting without a chaperone - their hot, yearning bodies longing to touch one another, at first tenderly, then with more and more passion, until finally a vigorous eruption of animalistic lust causes one person to loosen his cravat and another to take of her gloves - and then they caress fingers to fingers, and can feel the throbbing warmth of one another in full flower, and then the surging vigour of their youth rages and seethes and maybe one of them even dares to press his lips against the other's hand ... This is also why all Americans have syphilis, of course.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 4:10 AM on May 24, 2011 [10 favorites]


smackfu: personally I don't know how people take three or four weeks off in a row. Is it just that they are completely interchangeable cog in the machine and someone else can easily take over for them?

It's not rocket science, even if you're not a cog. At my last two jobs here in Austria (5 weeks of annual vacation plus numerous federal holidays), I routinely took at least one, if not two 3-week vacations every year. I was managing reasonably large web and software projects for external customers.

Before I could schedule a 3 week stint, I'd need to discuss it with my customers, to make sure we could work around any important dates they had. Then I was responsible for preparing enough requirements and specifications for my team to work on during my absence.

I appointed a senior developer to take care of day-to-day customer communications, and my boss would jump in for stickier questions. I briefed my boss and the senior developer before I left, and everything usually ran very smoothly.

In a culture where taking 3 week vacations is pretty normal, they've developed effective practices for dealing with an employee's extended absences.
posted by syzygy at 4:13 AM on May 24, 2011


If you're so essential to your job, negotiate for better time off or more pay.

I think a lot of people are *afraid* to let anyone else get trained on their job, lest they be considered replaceable. Better not to abandon your post; there are wolves at the door.
posted by Eideteker at 4:14 AM on May 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


My record, a couple of years ago was (I think) 47 days. That was my basic allowance, plus 9 carry-over days, plus some extra carry-over days I didn't ask for but got anyway. And that didn't include Bank Holidays or the Christmas week.

I didn't manage to use it all.
posted by salmacis at 4:21 AM on May 24, 2011


I'm gonna get free birth control!! Holy cow I love this place.

Slow down there fraula. Ain't nothing free about it. In Sweden my employer pays 45% tax on my salary for these "free benefits". What the employer doesn't cover comes out of the almost 50% tax I pay on my income. That's a tax rate of about 66% on an average income.

25 days of holiday, most people get 30 - and an additional 10 national "red" days. Salaries in Sweden are, no surprise, significantly lower than on the continent so people in this country do not have lots of disposable income.

I do not argue the merits of the Swedish welfare model, but as a hard-working, average member of Swedish society I do not for one minute think any of these benefits are "free" or that they do not have a heavy effect on general prosperity.


That stretches my words to make a tangential point.

Health care is indeed supported by a tax infrastructure. The thing is, I also pay less taxes than an American. Restated for clarity: at my income, I pay less taxes than someone at a similar income in the US. Employers certainly do pay higher taxes than they would in the US, and individuals with higher incomes, do pay more taxes than they would in the US. (Progressive taxation.) This does lead to crimps on entrepreneurship etc. that are long debated and I don't really want to go into.

I'm posting as an individual in order to give an individual's experience of what it is to live in France's democratic socialism. Big businesses speak for themselves and pay others to speak for them and influence policy plenty often.
posted by fraula at 4:27 AM on May 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


I get four weeks off per year, but generally only take three of them. Last year, I took five weeks off, after taking no holidays for a whole year. I travelled to the US for a month, two weeks in New York. I'm glad I did it; experience of a lifetime. But I'll never go a full twelve months without taking holidays again - that leads to tiredness, stress, illness and a general feeling of upset.

When I was on leave, the people below me moved up a notch. The guy at the bottom was replaced by a temp employee. I've had experiences of shorter holidays (of about a week), where it was assumed I could catch up on some of my work, so not all of it was done. For five weeks off, the company made sure my role was entirely covered. I returned to an empty in tray and an almost empty inbox. And I got a few days to reintegrate before everyone shuffled off to their own jobs again. (The temp employee stayed and was later hired full time because of an increase in workload overall.)

A year after my five weeks off, I'm not planning another lengthy vacation like that any time soon. At the moment I'm happy to have long weekends here and there when I need them - for personal stuff, for short trips away. I'll probably take a full week off later in the year, since I have a little more responsibility now and not quite in the same position where I can have other employees easily step into the fray.

But, man, I'm so glad I have the luxury of taking days off at short notice, taking two weeks with a little planning and occasionally burning through all my leave in one shot - because it keeps me happy, keeps me sane and keeps me in the same job for years on end.
posted by crossoverman at 4:31 AM on May 24, 2011


Do you people whining about vacation not have weekends?

I have 62 days of accrued vacation time for the 9 years I have been working for my current employer.

I like what I do, why would I do it less?
posted by AndrewKemendo at 4:44 AM on May 24, 2011


I see a lot of appeals to government to intervene in the workplace-time-off market with hyperbole, equating american workplaces to meat grind houses in 16th century Britain.

I am curious what everyone wants and who is to pay for these things that they want.

Just remember, your standard of living improvement is just as valid as anyone else's.
posted by AndrewKemendo at 4:51 AM on May 24, 2011


AndrewKemendo, what about the people who clean your office or wait on you at restaurants? Not everyone has a fulfilling job. Some people work jobs they hate to pay the rent and feed their children and they damn well deserve time off-something every country but the US seems to recognise.
Personally, I like my job well enough, but I also love doing lots of other things (including volunteer work) that I sure as hell don't get paid for. That's what annual leave is for. I'd be desperately unhappy without it.
posted by Wroksie at 4:55 AM on May 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


fraula: I'm posting as an individual in order to give an individual's experience of what it is to live in France's democratic socialism. Big businesses speak for themselves and pay others to speak for them and influence policy plenty often.

And I am posting as an individual with experience of paying my fair share of the bills for the Swedish welfare system. As I said, I don't argue the merits, but I am not blind to the cost which are real and burdensome.

As the 1970s bumper sticker said "Ass, gas, or grass: No one rides for free."

Your "free" pills are being paid for by that small business down the street - and the people who work there. For real.

Same with the long European holidays. These are not free. They are earned at the cost of lower salaries, higher taxes, and higher per hour productivity. Americans spend long hours lightly working, Europeans have less time to do the same work and tend to work more diligently those few hours they are actually at work.
posted by three blind mice at 5:02 AM on May 24, 2011


So... because you enjoy working every day and never taking time off, that means that it's not a problem that there are no protections for american workers whose only option is to work jobs with little or no paid time off while fearing for their own continued employment if they should happen to fall ill? Or that workers here are intimidated out of using what little time off they do get for fear of being considered lazy and expendable?


I guess I don't see the point of your posts, because both of those seem like pretty big issues regarding how a society thinks of employment to me, regardless how much you, AndrewKemendo, like your job.
posted by Hello, Revelers! I am Captain Lavender! at 5:02 AM on May 24, 2011 [9 favorites]


The answer to the problems most of you are talking about in this thread is, basically, socialism.

You need to start organizing. In fact, what little free time you have and time spent messing about on the internet, would probably reap you huge benefits in the long run if you spent it just networking with other pissed-off people, and evangelising the basic ideas of socialism (which many of you seem to be discovering for yourselves, in the reality of your own workplaces).

I know that every time this issue comes up, people make ironic jokes about "Fairness? Bah! That's socialism! Americans will never go for that!"

But I'm being completely, unfashionably earnest: America right now looks horrible from the outside, a nation of slaves. And sadly, infuriatingly, the UK will follow with pathetic eagerness wherever America goes.

Socialism is the answer. Which means, on a day-to-day basis: organize yourselves. Because there really isn't anything else that's going to improve your lot.
posted by lucien_reeve at 5:07 AM on May 24, 2011 [10 favorites]


There was a sub (hero, grinder, etc.) shop down the street from a place I used to work that had a sign on the wall that pretty much sums up working in the US:
New Incentive Plan: Work or Get Fired
posted by tommasz at 5:08 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is only partially related but after living in the UK for a number of years, I was offered a Seriously Great Job at a MegaBig Serious Newspaper you have definitely heard of. The money was great but the job came with 2 weeks paid vacation. There was no way I was going back to that, so I negotiated for 2 extra unpaid weeks with a pro-rated salary. We were totally prepared to sign and then discovered:

They couldn't do it. Something my European payroll system could do without blinking was literally impossible to execute at this American monolith. It's like the idea of valuing time over money had literally never been considered in the US employment paycheck cutting department.

Anyway, I do value my time over money, so I turned it down. Probably the last really big fork in the road of my life, now that I think of it.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:09 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Your "free" pills are being paid for by that small business down the street - and the people who work there. For real.

TBM, I don't think anyone's under any illusions about how this all works. We all have to pay at some point and some people think taxation is the fairer method leading to better outcomes and better quality of life.

However, I'm sure someone more au fait than me will be along soon to show that Europeans/antipodeans don't actually earn less on average or even pay that much more tax. I think the idea they work harder in order to earn those holidays is also open to question.
posted by Summer at 5:15 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


what about the people who clean your office or wait on you at restaurants?

What about them? See, if you are in an unfulfilling job there are ways to get out of that job. Taking a day off isn't one of them. I have never heard of a person with desire and drive pining for more days off as if you are taking a day off, you are not being as productive toward your goals as working a day - hence why you have the job in the first place. I have heard about such people working as much as they can, and then working overnight on their pet software project so they can save enough money to make their passion work - like my wife for example. Part of what makes a massively unrestricted labor market great is that the barriers to entry are low.

Right now if things keep going the way everyone wants them to, I have very little chance of survival as a future small business owner. Why? Because I will never have the start up capital to be able to pay for the time off and full blown health care and dental and child care etc... that will be required to give or i will get shut down. Let me just shut down any response stating a need for a state sponsored living standard right now because it is endless in prescriptive lifestyle mandates in order to manage. Guaranteeing a certain standard of living is an impossibility with humans that have the ability to free ride.
posted by AndrewKemendo at 5:17 AM on May 24, 2011


(personally I don't know how people take three or four weeks off in a row. Is it just that they are completely interchangeable cog in the machine and someone else can easily take over for them?)

People can do it because it's expected — it's anticipated and planned for.

Mrs damonism works for a small consulting firm of four people, where much of their work is one-on-one with clients. Last September her and I took four weeks off to visit the British Isles.

She gave her boss plenty of warning, and her boss scheduled their work around the expected absence of a quarter of the workforce. I'm not sure of the specifics of how it was done, but maybe someone else covered, or they scheduled less work, or something, but it wasn't seen as unusual or a career-limiting move.

For myself, at the time I was an academic. I just left everything for four weeks, and the world didn't fall apart. If I was teaching I would have had to have found someone to take the class for those weeks, but even that wouldn't have been too difficult. I left an out-of-office message saying I'd be back in four weeks, and if you want to contact me email me again then, because I'd be deleting any email that arrived whilst I was away. And people did.

The fact is, the world doesn't grind to a halt when someone goes on holidays — the workplace just adapts and gets on with it. I can't imagine any competent manager doesn't have some contingency plan for such occurrences.
posted by damonism at 5:17 AM on May 24, 2011


Gee, it must be nice to be salaried. In my life I've had exactly one job with paid sick time and vacation leave. I moved away from it and now I substitute teach. Sure I get Christmas break and summer break- but I don't get paid. I never have to request sick time- but I don't get paid. In August I'll get all the maternity leave I want- but I won't get paid.

I wish all of you irreplaceable workers above could donate some of your unused PTO to the millions of us who don't get any "leave:" we get "hours" or we get nothing.
posted by that's how you get ants at 5:28 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


AndrewKemendo, If you don't have the talent and imagination to start a business that provides a decent and humane standard of living for your staff, then you most assuredly should not be starting a business.

And you don't get to "shut down" a response, sorry. I have lived and worked in the United States, and I have lived and worked in the UK. Your statement about "prescripted living mandates" is a laughable example of how blind some people can be when looking at the rest of the world. For you, freedom may mean the freedom to exploit other people and resources to maximise your own income and property. For me, and for most other people in the world, freedom means knowing I won't end up homeless if I lose my job, knowing I won't lose my job for attending my grandmother's funeral, and knowing I won't go into debt and lose my home if I or someone I love becomes seriously ill. Those are things I used to genuinely worry about when I lived in the states, and I don't worry about those things any more.
posted by Wroksie at 5:35 AM on May 24, 2011 [32 favorites]


AndrewKemaendo: Your comments would have more merit if every other fucking first-world country in the world manages it just fine.
posted by salmacis at 5:53 AM on May 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


I have never heard of a person with desire and drive pining for more days off as if you are taking a day off, you are not being as productive toward your goals as working a day - hence why you have the job in the first place.

Sure, and that's great. Speaking for myself, I have 6 weeks of vacation a year, and almost never take more than half. As a highly paid professional in a career with a steep upward wage trajectory in a job that I love, I am fine with that. No matter what happens though, there will be a bottom quartile in the population in terms of earnings potential.

Guaranteeing a certain standard of living is an impossibility with humans that have the ability to free ride.

Guaranteeing everyone a job that they're passionate about and that fulfills their desire for self-actualisation is an impossibility. Why pretend otherwise? Given that there'll always be people working jobs rather than careers it is not wrong to give them some time off from their stultifying jobs.

Sure, any given person in any given job could strive and improve their economic situation, but moving yourself out of the bottom quartile, quintile, decile, whatever doesn't change the fact that someone will be the worst off.
posted by atrazine at 5:56 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


The government is supposed to be on your side, not on the side of company owners pretending to represent your best interests.

I once supposed that, and it may have even been true. In the US, it has not been true for decades. That is really what this thread is about.


Don't your employers or managers want you to be at least mildly happy with your job?

They make noises intended to indicate that they want that. When my happiness is in conflict with any of their real agenda, they make different noises, indicating that my happiness is expendable.


See, if you are in an unfulfilling job there are ways to get out of that job.

For large numbers of people in the US, there are no such things. Read Nickle and Dimed for some insight into the lives of those people.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:16 AM on May 24, 2011 [14 favorites]


In America our entire existence is at the whim of our wages. We will work, by god.

And someday you too will have a nice house that you're never in and a nice car that you only ever drive to work.
posted by Legomancer at 6:19 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Americans maximize their... [happiness] by working, and Europeans maximize their [happiness] through leisure," he found.

Really? I highly doubt there are Americans going around woo hooing about approx 12 hours of their lives are spent making someone else rich.

Nope. Happiness for me if I have to dedicate 12 hours of my life is APPRECIATE MY TIME/ME. I get 4 weeks vacation that I built up over 5 years and every company I've ever worked for, if I request 2 consecutive weeks off, holy shit storm Batman. It takes them two weeks of humming and hawing with each other if I can go.

So....in my review you said that I"m useless, have no value, why am I here, etc. Even though I ran this division by myself for five years. Yet I want two weeks of vacation, worked around projects and now it's a problem?

And to think, the average retirement age is 72 now. Goody.
posted by stormpooper at 6:38 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you really want to be depressed, read the comments:
The comments here from Americans are very discouraging. America, perhaps to a degree more than other countries, is not just an area, or even a history, but an idea. The idea is that we are free, and that "we" includes company owners who are now supposed to be forced by the government to offer paid vacation? Yes, workers are "free." Workers will whine and say they are not REALLY free, but they are. What the whiners mean by "free" is having the kind of life, perks, and benefits they want largely on someone else's dime. Speaking for myself, I don't want YOU to pay for my health benefits, my food, my kids' education. And really, why SHOULD I expect my boss pay me for time I'm not working for him so I can look at the Eiffel Tower or something?

As for our Euopean friends posting here, live as you choose, but before criticizing our country's way of doing things as inferior, you may want to explain why there are all these shameful riots in England, France and Spain as European whiners confront the reality that their socialist way of life is running out of gas.

We Americans need to re-read our own history with its fierce pride in independence. For a start, try something easy, like The Long Winter, by Ingalls- Wilder: a true story about a prairie community on the brink of starving to death when the heavy snows prevented trains from reaching them. Famished and freezing, they wouldn't even dream of forcing the few others who had extra staples, like flour, to help them, and even in their desperate straits, they cringed at the very thought of depending on others. That was America. less
I hate this idiot nation.
posted by Legomancer at 6:39 AM on May 24, 2011 [12 favorites]


This thread made me actually check how many vacation days I have on hand - 21! Awesome. Now if only we had the cash (and my wife had the same benefits as an academic librarian), we could go somewhere.

Maybe I'll take a week off and hang out at my son's daycare. Naps, swim time, and all the Goldfish I can eat? For 300 bucks a week, sounds like a bargain.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:44 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Lack of vacation culture & time is has the biggest negative effect on my quality of life in US. I manage issues like crazy health care and education costs, but there is no fix for not being able to take 3-5 weeks at a time.

My economic output suffers as a consequence, which hurts both my employer and the economy at large. Both could get so much more out of me in exchange for the generous compensation (or even pay me less) if I could take few multi-week vacations a year.

Now I sprinkle my 3 weeks here and there.
posted by zeikka at 6:46 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm married to an American (one of those few ways you can actually immigrate legally to another Western state) and we live in the UK, where I'm from. Much to her family's bafflement, we elected to move her here rather than me there. My fear of the passive-aggression and mercurial nature of American workplaces (as exemplified by the terrifying Bill Lumbergh, who I'm pretty sure is one of the rare instances of satire being less crazy than the truth, judging by the stories upthread and in other similar threads) was a huge motivator, as was my unwillingness to accept 10 lousy days holiday (or less?!), what passes for healthcare in the US and living in a country where my slightly lefty liberal European politics would have me regarded as a deviant communist.

Here in the UK, I get five weeks holiday minimum (five days more than the legal minimum of 20), plus public holidays, plus normally around 3-5 days of extra holiday the company gives around the Christmas/New Year period as a perk. I get a monthly email from HR reminding me how much holiday I have left to take, and if I didn't take any holiday in, say, the first six months of the year, I'd probably have it brought up at appraisal as an action point to book some quickly, partially for health, sanity and effectiveness and partially for bookkeeping and risk limitation (i.e. spacing holidays out enough so that not everybody takes all of November and December off).

Quite often, I am amused or enraged (depending on how many horrific healthcare cost stories I've heard from our American friends and family recently) when I hear a certain strand of argument, especially about the Brits, about how we're all forelock-tugging subjects of the Crown and don't know what Real Freedom is over there in our grey-clothed, utilitarian, overcast socialist hellhole, where the dreams of entrepreneurs are crushed out of them by the joyless sucking of the endless, insatiable welfare state.

But then I think about how all those ideals of freedom and liberty and self-reliance and everything else go out the window for millions of Americans the moment there's a paycheck involved, and how the capriciousness and naked greed of American corporations has produced generations of workers who will put up with endless piles of steaming shit, tug forelocks and give back hard-won concessions at the drop of a hat because some grinning jackass with stupid hair and a shiny suit told them the alternative is the Soviet Union.

The UK is considered by much of the rest of Europe to be America-Lite when it comes to workplace culture and if George Osborne has his way, we will be. But there is a certain bloody-mindedness that seems to be part of the culture in the UK which I hope sticks around - try telling a Yorkshireman or a Glaswegian or a Londoner that they can't have their two or three weeks in Skegness or Magaluf or Provence and they'll tell you exactly what they think of you.

Finally, one of the things that strikes me most about the difference between Europe and the US is the relative focus - in the US, you may have some lower taxes, but you pay for those lower taxes in worry, job immobility and the inflexibility that means you have to eat shit to keep a job. In the UK and Europe, we pay higher taxes, but we get decent, universal healthcare, guaranteed minimum holidays and, broadly speaking, less toxic workplaces. This isn't true of every company or workplace and there are plenty of problems, but there's a lot less worrying.
posted by Happy Dave at 6:49 AM on May 24, 2011 [28 favorites]


I have never heard of a person with desire and drive pining for more days off as if you are taking a day off, you are not being as productive toward your goals as working a day - hence why you have the job in the first place.
This is just such a bizarre idea to me, and I really like my job and think it's an important job. My job is not the only thing going on in my life. It makes me really sad that you mentioned having a wife and needing childcare, because it doesn't sound like there's a lot of room for family in your single-minded focus on work. Do you not have any goals related to being a decent husband and father? Are the only goals worth devoting time to the goals that earn you money?

When I take time off from work, I am being productive towards goals, even if it's just the goal of being a healthy, sane person who relaxes on occasion.
posted by craichead at 6:50 AM on May 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


robocop is bleeding – I recently took advantage of two consecutive four-day weekends by taking the three days off in between. Eleven days off work total for the cost of three days holiday. I gardened, read some books, cooked some complicated recipes, had a long boozy lunch with some friends (boozy lunch may not be an option if you have kids to pick up from daycare). I never went more than five miles from home and with the exception of the boozy lunch I spent less than I would have if I’d been working that week. It was absolute bliss. Holiday doesn’t have to mean going to the beach, it can just be time to do stuff you like to do.
posted by Wroksie at 6:52 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


If your company is anything other than a startup, a cutting-edge research lab, or tiny family-owned hardware-type business and one of your employees is irreplacable, your company is run by morons.

I really don't get this response. I certainly don't think I am irreplaceable. OTOH, there's no perfect backup standing by to replace me for four weeks while I wander off to Europe. We would need to hire and train some replacement and we don't have that large a team that we have double coverage for all the roles. Does this make us morons?
posted by smackfu at 7:02 AM on May 24, 2011


Sounds like there's a lot of that going around. Seriously, why do so many of the very angry here not do just that?

The devil you know and complain about is a lot safer than the one you don't.
posted by smackfu at 7:04 AM on May 24, 2011


Yeah, Wroksie, that's sort of what I've been doing with my time. Longish weekends where and there so I can do yardwork, build shelves or a shed or something. I do have to pick up my son from daycare, so lunches can only be tipsy.

But standard Work Life reinserts itself in the late afternoon when I pick up my son and my wife, who has worked all day, gets home. At that point it's business as usual, maybe even tinged with a little regret on my part that my wife couldn't be part of the lazy day and a bit of resentment on her part that I lounged about while she couldn't.

It would have been nice if the original article had touched on spouses with differing vacation benefits a bit more. She gets two weeks, maybe three tops for vacation and sick time. I get 4 weeks vacation, 3 days personal, and unlimited sick. Managing that difference can be a bit stressful.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:04 AM on May 24, 2011


robocop, yeah, I understand. I could see how easily resentment could breed if my husband and I didn't have almost identical holiday allowances. Especially from my side, I'd be super jealous if he got to lounge twice as much as I did and I would be annoyed if there was housework to do after he'd been home all day.
posted by Wroksie at 7:12 AM on May 24, 2011


I just want to reiterate this – I have worked in the US and the UK in similar jobs making a similar income, somewhere around $35,000 or $40,000 depending on the exchange rate. The idea that tax and benefit burden here is higher for people on average incomes is ludicrous.

In the UK, I pay almost the exact same rate of tax and contributions as I did in the United States. I get the same amount of cash in my bank account each month-probably a little more in the UK than I did in the US, to be honest. When you consider the fact that my taxes cover my health care (no co-pays for doctor’s visits, £7-ish for any and all prescriptions, and the NHS doesn’t contact me after I’ve been to the doctor to dispute claims for tests and treatments) and I’m not paying >$200 for a nearly useless HMO plan, and that I also get 28 days of paid holiday and a 37 hour work week, I am obviously far better off here and making a much, much better hourly wage than I did in the US. Simple math, people.

Taxes here are tougher on the rich than they are in the US, I guess. I wouldn’t know, not being rich, but the amount of complaining by the rich in both countries seems comparable, and the speed recently at which politicians are tripping over themselves to cut benefits to the poor, the working class, and the middle class to subsidise the rich is also quite comparable.
posted by Wroksie at 7:13 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Do you have similar housing in both countries?
posted by smackfu at 7:17 AM on May 24, 2011


No, I don't.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:18 AM on May 24, 2011


smackfu: "I really don't get this response. I certainly don't think I am irreplaceable. OTOH, there's no perfect backup standing by to replace me for four weeks while I wander off to Europe. We would need to hire and train some replacement and we don't have that large a team that we have double coverage for all the roles. Does this make us morons?"

I think this is a category error. Here in the UK, we're not looking for nor do we necessarily have a 'perfect backup standing by to replace [you] for four weeks while [you] wander off to $holiday_destination' either. However there is an expectation and broad societal agreement that people both deserve and should expect holiday, so work is planned so that it can slow down, be handed over or whatever. Nobody freaks out if you say you're off on holiday for three weeks - quite the opposite, they usually ask where and then make cooing appreciative noises when you describe where you're going. And, if you're making under £50k a year, you're very unlikely to get a phone call or an email from work or be expected to handle work shit while you're away. That's not a holiday. This culture has certainly seen some erosion with Blackberrys etc, but seriously, all you need to do is turn it off and stick it in a drawer. The world will not end.
posted by Happy Dave at 7:20 AM on May 24, 2011


I really don't get this response. I certainly don't think I am irreplaceable. OTOH, there's no perfect backup standing by to replace me for four weeks while I wander off to Europe. We would need to hire and train some replacement and we don't have that large a team that we have double coverage for all the roles. Does this make us morons?

smackfu,

I think what really determines the difference is to what degree individual workloads change on a day to day basis based on external factors. So a system administrator has much less control and predictability over their work day-to-day, if a system goes down it needs to be fixed now.

Similarly if you work directly with clients on short turn-arounds and you're the only person doing that particular work. On the other hand, if you work in something like product development then the company internally controls product release dates and schedules work months in advance.

Personally I work on projects with well defined begin and end dates, during a project I typically take only very short breaks (the more senior I am within the project, the shorter, because there are fewer people who can make up for the absence of someone higher up the pyramid). On the other hand, if I plan a few months in advance I can arrange to not be staffed on a project in a particular month and take a vacation without needing to be contactable.
posted by atrazine at 7:21 AM on May 24, 2011


smackfu: "Do you have similar housing in both countries?"

What's the point of a bigger house if you're never in it and just fill it with shit to compensate for not having a life outside work?
posted by Happy Dave at 7:21 AM on May 24, 2011 [13 favorites]


Are you asking me, smackfu? My actual house is about the same size, though it's terraced (in a row with no space between) and I sometimes miss having a giant yard. But it's far more efficient to heat and it never gets hot enough here to worry about AC.
posted by Wroksie at 7:22 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Do you have similar housing in both countries?

Sure, you can share a house/flat with 3-4 people until you're 35 in London, or an apartment in New York. Or you can choose to work in a place with lower pay outside major cities. That being said, I think the average American house is larger (the major cost in housing is land, of which the US has way more).
posted by atrazine at 7:26 AM on May 24, 2011


Do you have similar housing in both countries?

All British homes are exactly as small as a tiny Manhattan studio, but have a garden that is exactly as large as a Texan ranch. They are coloured blue and have the words "police box" written on the outside in accordance with a long-established tradition originally set by good Queen Bess.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 7:30 AM on May 24, 2011 [19 favorites]


I thought StriketheViol's chart was very interesting!

Which countries of the overworked are currently in the red? Greece, Iceland, USA. Portugal is only slightly left of the average.

Which countries of the less-worked have strong economies? UK, Canada, France

Or am I just imagining these similarities?
posted by jillithd at 7:31 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


This thread is depressing.
posted by schmod at 7:32 AM on May 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


Yeah, i've never had a job that's given me much vacation time.

My favorite little scheme is that my current employer owns two businesses, which all of his employees work at both of. So we're all working 2, part time jobs. He only give vacation for one of them.

So I get 1/2 a week off a year.

I can't wait to own my own business someday.
posted by furnace.heart at 7:34 AM on May 24, 2011


You may be irreplaceable and have to work, lest the company fall into the yawning abyss below but how many of you are in the Pulling Babies Out of Burning Buildings industry or the Fending off the Giant Carnivorous Bees Department?

The widgets will get widged. No lives will be lost if you're gone a day.
posted by Legomancer at 7:37 AM on May 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


I have very little chance of survival as a future small business owner.
Wait, so a business owner who works for himself and pockets all the profits of his and his employees' work thinks that vacations are over-rated?

Historically, our rights were both a reaction to unions and the general strike, but also to the real possibility of communism taking hold. The answer was socialism, which allowed us to keep capitalist enterprise without also trampling over people in some modern feudalist nightmare.

What happened to that pursuit of happiness thing? Surely equating widget-production to happiness is unconstitutional, or something.
posted by bonaldi at 7:42 AM on May 24, 2011


toodleydoodley: "yeah, I never even looked to see how many days off I was entitled to when I started my new job (teaching k12), because my first day in, I got a school-wide email that said "we have spent $xxxxxx.00 this year on substitutes because some of you are taking days off so don't do that again!""

Wrong reasoning on behalf of your principal, but teacher absence is a serious issue. The average kid in the US spends the equivalent of a full year in front of substitutes by the time they graduate high school. Every ten teacher absences lowers math achievement by the equivalent of a few years of teacher experience. Teacher absence is a particular problem in schools serving high needs kids.
posted by Apropos of Something at 7:46 AM on May 24, 2011


Legomancer: "I hate this idiot nation."

I think those words when I wake up in the morning, when I read the newspaper, when I walk down the street, when I go to work, and when I go grocery shopping. It's like I'm the last human left alive.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:47 AM on May 24, 2011 [12 favorites]


This "I must be at work all the time" attitude is also a big problem with sick days (or lack thereof). I say this as my husband stays home, sick as a dog, with a wedding we are both in happening this weekend. He's sick because some person at his awesome, progressive, white-collar job thought it was more important to have face time at work than to keep his germs at home.

So now we have it here, and two other people at least in his office (one other in his his department of 4-5 people) are sick as well. So even people who work at places that don't penalize them for staying home when they should do not exercise the good sense to stay the eff home when they're contagious.

On the other hand, at my last job, the Director of Development once caught the stomach flu from the office super-carrier just in time to realize he's sick on a plane to China. Attitudes about sick time changed. Suddenly, you are supposed to stay home if you feel unwell. Crazy huh? Too bad there is no equivalent head-check for real vacation time.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:53 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


My time off the clock is the time in which I do what I love. I'm impressed and slightly envious by those who love their jobs so much they would give up holidays, but I personally cannot imagine a paid gig as anything more than a means to an end. Sometimes that end is the time to write what I like as opposed to what pays the bills. But sometimes that end is lounging on a beach with a stack of novels or planting flowers or having dinner parties or jumping in waterfalls or going to shows or cooking or traveling with my cell phone turned off or listening to records (etc)-- any and all of the number of things my job ultimately pays for that (thankfully) haven't the slightest thing to do with my job.
posted by thivaia at 7:55 AM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


I overheard a CEO at a place I temped once (a long time ago) going on about how he could replace X guy (who quit because his request for a week around a significant religious holiday was denied (he could have the day but not the week even though he was going to go to his home country to spend the religious holiday with his parents) with two folks at the amount of money X guy earned to his secretary. The temp secretary who was right out of college (and pretty bold) said, "But doesn't X guy also do A, B, and C?" She was pretty smart. And X guy earned $55K a year and managed supply, logistics and inventory for the business on his own with virtually no help at all. It was, any idiot could see, what kept that business going. He was the only one who knew how the systems worked, how licensing and compliance worked, and the CEO (new to the industry and business) figured the guy was like a glorified messenger boy in a newscap. (Of course he would. He's the kind of guy who liked to tell me about how he had $100K cabinet work put into his kitchen while I made a temp salary and was so anxious about money that I could barely eat lunch. Most rich people don't brag on end about how much wealth they have.)

The CEO didn't want to hear that X guy was actually valuable to the business. He started saying how crazy it was to spend a week with your parents, how any man that spends that long with his parents is deranged, and...well, I won't go into the stuff I consider racist and homophobic stuff because it's just unpleasant. And I already established that that CEO was an asshole, so it was asshole talk.
posted by anniecat at 7:57 AM on May 24, 2011 [9 favorites]




I also kind of thought there were a lot of academics on MeFi. Where are they in these discussions?

I'm an academic.

I get zero days of paid vacation. None. Zilch.

On the one hand, the next day I really HAVE TO be in the office is sometime in late August.

On the other hand, I don't earn any salary for two or three months out of the year. To make life easier to manage, I tell Payroll to take my pay and break it up over the normal 26 pay periods instead of however many it really is. So I still get a check in July and August, but it's entirely withheld pay from earlier months.

On my invisible psychic hand, even if I don't have to be in the office until August, I was up until about 3:30 last night banging out a paper draft and will be spending the entire summer at home banging out more paper drafts.

Long periods of vacation are not really part of the allure of academic life. There are serious and large downsides to academic schedules too -- most obviously, you can only take a vacation (other than a long weekend) outside the academic year, which means almost anywhere you'd want to go will be overrun with families-with-kids. And, as everyone has noted, the long "vacation" periods are really just times you can do research, and probably times you don't earn any pay.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:25 AM on May 24, 2011


SteveInMaine writes "What's amazing to me is that for how many responses this post has received from Americans complaining about how things are, there were only one or two references to unions. Unfortunately, I think most folks forget the reason for collective bargaining is to help employees to get a fair shake."And yet I constantly hear the refrain that 'knowledge workers' don't need unions."

Man I totally don't get this either and I'm in Canada not the US. I'm working my way through an Electrical apprenticeship and am going full bore trying to get on with the IBEW. The pay is good, the benefits at least as good as any I've had in any IT position, plus all the other benefits of unionization. But I'm the only guy in my class who thinks union work is a good deal. Everyone else is worried about having to work with a slacker the company can't get rid of as if that kind of thing never happens in non-union workplaces.

AndrewKemendo writes "Right now if things keep going the way everyone wants them to, I have very little chance of survival as a future small business owner. Why? Because I will never have the start up capital to be able to pay for the time off and full blown health care and dental and child care etc... that will be required to give or i will get shut down. Let me just shut down any response stating a need for a state sponsored living standard right now because it is endless in prescriptive lifestyle mandates in order to manage. Guaranteeing a certain standard of living is an impossibility with humans that have the ability to free ride."

So fuck the guys I'm hiring as long as I can attain my goals? It's amazing how many people feel this way. I'm surprised American firms don't have mandatory blood drives where they force everyone to donate with the proceeds going to the company.

Apropos of Something writes "Wrong reasoning on behalf of your principal, but teacher absence is a serious issue. The average kid in the US spends the equivalent of a full year in front of substitutes by the time they graduate high school. Every ten teacher absences lowers math achievement by the equivalent of a few years of teacher experience. Teacher absence is a particular problem in schools serving high needs kids."

Really a problem of how substitution is handled. When a teacher is out for a short period the replacement doesn't have any grasp of the dynamics of the class and so they are more classroom monitor than instructor. If every school had a floater or two that did nothing but sub for that school while assisting other instructors when coverage wasn't required they'd be familiar with classes, instructor lesson plans and in the case of planned absences (Jury duty, funerals, wife having a baby, that kind of thing) active pre-planning to occur. Instead subs are drawn from a pool of often the least experienced instructors who not only don't know if they are working on any particular day also don't know who/what they'll be teaching until they get there.
posted by Mitheral at 8:31 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


kimdog: "although it was frowned upon if you wanted to take more than one week at once"

Heh. In Denmark it is mandatory by law to take three weeks of consecutive leave between 1 May and 30 September. Technically, if you so much as check your email once during your leave you forfeit your leave pay, although that has never been enforced in practice.

Now excuse me while I go back to work, accruing 2.5 days of leave every month.
posted by brokkr at 8:39 AM on May 24, 2011


Heh. In Denmark it is mandatory by law to take three weeks of consecutive leave between 1 May and 30 September. Technically, if you so much as check your email once during your leave you forfeit your leave pay, although that has never been enforced in practice.

Seriously? So if you wish to take your leave in, say, January and spend three weeks backpacking around the Andes or something, you're out of luck?
posted by acb at 8:47 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Field Report

Germany

New graduate with no work history: 4 weeks during 1 year probationary period, then 5 weeks. Plus 14 public holidays.

Sick days: unlimited. Sick days must be accompanied by a doctor's note. Working while ill is frowned upon and in some businesses can actually get you into trouble. This is because you make the others sick, who will not hesitate to use their rights to sick days. (Okay, not totally unlimited. After six months of sick leave, your case can be subject to review. At a certain point, disability pensions and insurance kick in.)

Some businesses -- usually small businesses -- actually have vacation closures, where the outfit shuts its doors for 3 - 6 weeks while everybody goes on holiday. There is a sign on the door, and nobody bats an eyelash. The customers make a note, make other arrangements in the interim if necessary, and are back when the vacation is over. The world does not end. Germans are obsessive planners and vacation breaks are planned accordingly.

Employees are, on balance, happier. They are many times more productive in the hours they do work.

Don't think for a minute that this stuff I am talking about is all the employers idea. This is legislated. This is what government is for. But employers put up with it, not least because they have a highly educated workforce that is also highly productive. German industry brings in enough to pay for all of this and have plenty left over.

I am struck by the comments from people who say the business came to a grinding halt when they left on vacation and something happened. That, to me, encapsulates the cultural weak spot perfectly. As a culture, Americans are short-term thinkers; planning and organising aren't a strong suit. Reactionary, crisis management seem to be very common. For a culture that places such value on individualism, it's amazing how few people trust themselves to attempt to solve a problem on their own initiative.

I know a number of Americans here in Germany. Some of them are students on exchange, from a super-expensive Little Ivy. These kids are all very intelligent, but almost helpless. It's as though they don't know how to do anything themselves. Self-initiated research to solve the most basic problems isn't in the coping toolbox. When things go wrong, it is always somebody else's fault.

I know other Americans who have been here longer (some 30 years or more). They are as self-reliant as any typical German.

What they all have in common is that they want to stay here. That is particularly striking when one considers the students. These are kids with all the money and opportunity that America can offer them, and the thought of returning to the United States makes many of them wistful. They like the way people treat each other in Germany better. That, to me, is a bigger sign than any that America is in deep, deep trouble.

I don't claim to have the solution, but I think it starts with this: the "average working man" sees himself in the role of his employer. He deludes himself into thinking his odds of making it into the top 0.1% are good. He tells himself he has more in common with the rich than the poor. Then he supports parties and policies which help those rich while harming everybody else, including himself.

The middle class screws itself as long as it "aspires to be rich". It needs to look down, not up, and work on making conditions better for those below. Only then will productivity and general well-being improve (and I dare to say, prosperity will follow).
posted by rhombus at 8:56 AM on May 24, 2011 [22 favorites]


Seriously? So if you wish to take your leave in, say, January and spend three weeks backpacking around the Andes or something, you're out of luck?

Yeah, it brings to mind the "August is for vacation" culture in a lot of Europe. You can take your three or four weeks, but they better be in August, and I hope you like travelling in high season.
posted by smackfu at 9:00 AM on May 24, 2011


Heh. In Denmark it is mandatory by law to take three weeks of consecutive leave between 1 May and 30 September. Technically, if you so much as check your email once during your leave you forfeit your leave pay, although that has never been enforced in practice.

Is this a statutory requirement or a policy specific to a particular trade union / employer's association agreement?

I know in The Netherlands it's the other way around, in that the employer is required to allow the employee to take continuous leave only during the summer months. So if I asked my boss in Holland for 3 weeks to go hiking in the summer he has to accommodate me, if I asked to take it in January he wouldn't be required to allow it.

This exists to prevent employers from restricting employees to short holidays, the reason you only have the legal right in the summer is a compromise for the employer. (in practice most employers of non-factory workers (they often all get their holidays at the same time for logistical reasons) will be more than happy to let you take a long holiday outside of peak season, because it smooths their manpower situation, they're just not require to by law.
posted by atrazine at 9:03 AM on May 24, 2011


I spent almost exactly the same percentage of my income on taxes, SS, and health care in the states as I do here...

This, to those who complain about high taxation in European countries. Toss in student loans and unpaid medical expenses even if you have insurance, and I'm nearing 70% of my income is spent on things that most of Europe get for 50%. But, I'm an American, I get the privilege to have the freedom to pay for them myself.

I once, while working at an insurance company, nearly had (but avoided) an argument with my VP over a nationalized medical plan. His main problem: who's going to pay for it? My response: it's taken out of your paycheck like everything else.

He, as a VP, got free health insurance, and the remote idea of having health insurance taken out of his paycheck was an affront to everything he had ever worked for.

Which, pre-insurance company, was as a lobbyist in the 80s making the dolphin-safe tuna regulations not nearly as dolphin-safe as they could have been.

I think, at some point in his life, he either nearly had, or actually did have, a fistfight with Ed Schultz. I didn't particularly want to ask for that whole story.
posted by AzraelBrown at 9:05 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it brings to mind the "August is for vacation" culture in a lot of Europe. You can take your three or four weeks, but they better be in August, and I hope you like travelling in high season.

Yeah, this is most true for people who work in:
a) Education (same as in the US)
b) Small factories (often can't be run efficiently with 50% staffing)
c) Paris
posted by atrazine at 9:06 AM on May 24, 2011


This is going to sound like a stupid question, probably, but who does things like staff hotels and hostels and tourist sites in Europe? Presumably someone has to work in the summer, to facilitate all the other people who are taking vacations. Do they get time off at some other time?
posted by craichead at 9:07 AM on May 24, 2011


This is the actual report.
posted by atrazine at 9:08 AM on May 24, 2011


if you wish to take your leave in, say, January ... you're out of luck?

Saxo the Grammarian notes that Rørik Slyngebond once took two weeks off in January when his father Höðr was killed by Odin's son Boe, causing the Swedes, the Curonians and the Slavs to rebel against Denmark. Rørik kicked them all up the ass and threw them into the sea (hence his name, "ring slinger"), and then took a further week off to live in a hut with two Finnish wizards and learn dark majicks in exchange for sexual favours. So it is possible for Danes to take time off in January, but the whole thing has to be written up in a saga by the end of the financial year.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 9:12 AM on May 24, 2011 [17 favorites]


atrazine: "This is the actual report."

Blergh, the kerning in that PDF is totally broken.
posted by Happy Dave at 9:32 AM on May 24, 2011


To people pooh-pooing the concept of indespensability: I don't think this comes, necessarily, from a self-imposed sense of being irreplaceable at one's job. Rather, it's an organizational culture many have resigned themselves to that feeds this notion of "Oh, we certainly can't do without you for that long! Why don't you take several smaller breaks instead? Say, six months from now?" It's much cheaper for companies to make their employees feel important - the concept of "we can't do without you!" than it is to give them benefits that they will use, that cost money and take a tiny chip out of productivity. In reality, no disasters would erupt simply because one person takes a break long enough to be considered refreshing. It's really about keeping that leash just long enough to make you feel like you have something good worth keeping, but short enough to remind you that you're lucky to have them so don't blow it.

I've got a grain of an idea that workplaces that offer a lot of vacation (on paper) that employees, in one way or another, are discouraged to use, do this deliberately to seem competitive to job seekers. Imagine if you had great health insurance benefits, but were told in so many words that you can't actually use them? I don't see how that would be any different.

Sure, okay, maybe there are people who actually are important enough (or feel important enough...or want to appear important enough) and never need or want take vacation time. I don't know why that should be the standard we should measure ourselves against.
posted by contessa at 9:36 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Pulling Babies Out of Burning Buildings industry or the Fending off the Giant Carnivorous Bees Department?

Personally, I'm in the FOTGCBD, but I hear that the benefits over at the PBOoBB are a bit better. I think they get more vacation and better medical coverage, but I'm not sure. On the other hand, we do get hazard pay, which is nice, but we have to pay for half of the shells we use. I'm pretty sure management instituted this policy to conserve ammo.

Whelp, looks like another wave is starting, I gotta get back to work.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 9:38 AM on May 24, 2011


I'm surprised American firms don't have mandatory blood drives where they force everyone to donate with the proceeds going to the company.

I once took a job in a university alumni department. They set goals not just for alumni giving to the scholarship fund, not just for alumni-who-worked-there giving, but for everyone-in-the-office giving. Meaning, when I was approached for a donation on the second day there, and politely said no, my boss came into my office Very Concerned because I was going to ruin their 100% employee-giving goal. I might add that I was not an alumna of this university (and I probably could not have afforded it as a student anyway).

I was desperate for my job at the time, so I forked over 15.00 of my own money back to my employer, before I'd even gotten a paycheck. Because my boss bullied me into it. Because it made some bullshit giving goal she'd set.

On the upside, no one can force me to donate blood because I was in England in 1990 and so am a Mad Cow risk. Ha...ha?
posted by emjaybee at 9:38 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


As I was reading this I realized that in my 22 year career since graduating from college, I have never taken more than 5 consecutive days off from work. And the last time I did that was probably 2005.
posted by COD at 9:39 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just left the office for two weeks holiday. That'll be 10 days out of my 36 days per year leave allocation which is SIX AND A HALF WEEKS in total, which is NORMAL here in civilisation. (Oh and I'm on the bottom rung of the senior grades; the higher ups have even more time off.)

Today I did brief handovers on my projects to the collaborators who will keep working on them while I'm away, using the plans and content specifications. The deputies for those areas where I'm "first" can handle that stuff for a short while. Detailed task instructions are in place for everything and our policy is "no single point of failure" anyway. I plan my holidays around the existing milestones and deadlines. Or if I plan them far in advance enough, it's the other way round.

This thread makes me feel ill at ease. Man.
posted by yoHighness at 9:43 AM on May 24, 2011


I've worked the shitty jobs where if you don't show up, you don't get paid. And everyone was fucking miserable (and was often suffering from some flavor of RSI because if you didn't work fast enough, you would get shit on). Plus, the company had the tendency to do things like ignore labor laws because the majority of the people working there were not in the US legally. At least now there's a class-action suit against the company for that kind of shitfuckery, but it happens all over.

And a lot of people either don't have the time (as it was common to work 80 hour weeks during the holidays because that was when businesses needed to do their end-of-year inventories, which would always lead to a few people getting in nasty car accidents because they hadn't slept in 48 hours) and then proceeding to get fired because they hadn't shown up for some number of days that always varied, depending on how much they liked you, or the know how to do anything about it. Plus, they felt like they were lucky to have a job that was typically indoors, in an air-conditioned environment.

But I've luckily moved slightly up to another peon job, but at least I'm working 40 hour weeks. And I get 1.25 vacation days and 1 sick day (they're separate) a month. We're allowed to keep 30 days of vacation and (I think) 60 days of sick. We also get 2 floating vacation days (that are use or lose) and Commencement off.

My mother worked at an office job and was high up in the ranks, but she always told me that she never felt like she could take off what little time she was granted (which I think was more than what I get). She felt that in her field (finance), a woman taking days off was seen as a liability. When I first started my current gig and told her that I'm the only woman in my department (of 4), she told me that I had to be very careful about taking time off and how I acted because anything out of the norm would be seen as not good.

Fuck that. I still feel bad about taking time off (and get super nervous asking about it), but my boss has actually emailed us before when we start to accrue too much vacation time (typically anything over 20 days) to tell us that we should make some plans to take time off for our own sanity. And I feel bad knowing that this is rare in the US. And it honestly makes me worry about finding another non-peon job because of all the horror stories that I've heard that if you move up in the ranks--taking time off is a liability. (I've got 2 weeks off starting next week, but I don't have the money to actually go anywhere, so I'm going to work on my novel.) My job comes with vacation/sick perks and cheap health insurance that covers everything, but the pay is pretty crappy.
posted by sperose at 9:43 AM on May 24, 2011


Also, this chestnut is probably worth posting in the context of much of American working culture: How to create a sick system.
posted by Happy Dave at 9:47 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Having read this thread I realise I have to stop considering products made in the U.S. as "fair trade"...
posted by yoHighness at 9:48 AM on May 24, 2011 [12 favorites]


It's fascinating how much people are saying that they don't feel they can even take the time they are allocated, which points to a deeper issue than just how much vacation time there is.

I mean, people talk about getting called by work at a funeral and then actually picking up the phone! How crazy is that?
posted by smackfu at 9:54 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I once worked at a law firm where the support staff had to enter a drawing in MARCH if you wanted to get the week between Christmas and New Year's off. There were 20-25 support people jockeying for FIVE available spots.
posted by Lucinda at 10:11 AM on May 24, 2011


As I was reading this I realized that in my 22 year career since graduating from college, I have never taken more than 5 consecutive days off from work.

In Poland, we are required by law to take at least one two-week (or longer) vacation per year. If we do not, the employer gets into trouble with the labor board, and that of course means the employee gets into trouble with the employer, so you make a point of scheduling and taking that vacation. You can go to China or you can sit home and watch reruns of Alf, but you must get out of the office for two consecutive weeks or the labor board will come down on you.

That probably sounds crazy to a lot of Americans, but it prevents the employer from pressuring you into doing crazy crap like working 22 fucking years of your life away without taking one proper fucking vacation. Christ. Take two weeks this summer.
posted by pracowity at 10:13 AM on May 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


As I was reading this I realized that in my 22 year career since graduating from college, I have never taken more than 5 consecutive days off from work.

I'm completely staggered by that, COD. 22 years! And I'm guessing you won't have had any of the "free" vacations that don't even count towards my holiday allowance, like the two-week shutdown at Christmas etc.

I used to want to work in the US, but I just can't bring myself to completely upend the work/life balance like that, especially as I'm no longer 22.

I now even get a bit suspicious when I hear about companies with free lunch canteens (eg Google). Is that there to be helpful to the staff, or to allow them to establish a lunch-at-desk keep-working culture? (Not that I mind that, I work through lunch most days by choice, tbh. But I know of places where people get genuine hassle nipping out at lunchtime for some errands or a haircut.)
posted by bonaldi at 10:17 AM on May 24, 2011


...or you can sit home and watch reruns of Alf...

I just had this vision of Alf reruns being massively popular in Poland, and that resulted in a smile here at my desk. Thanks for that.
posted by COD at 10:18 AM on May 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


In Poland, we are required by law to take at least one two-week (or longer) vacation per year. If we do not, the employer gets into trouble with the labor board, and that of course means the employee gets into trouble with the employer, so you make a point of scheduling and taking that vacation. You can go to China or you can sit home and watch reruns of Alf, but you must get out of the office for two consecutive weeks or the labor board will come down on you.

Eponysterical.

How much leave do employees in Poland get? Having to take all/most of one's leave in one block and work the rest of the year solid, rather than taking the odd long weekend here or there, would suck.
posted by acb at 10:20 AM on May 24, 2011


acb: "In Poland, we are required by law to take at least one two-week (or longer) vacation per year. If we do not, the employer gets into trouble with the labor board, and that of course means the employee gets into trouble with the employer, so you make a point of scheduling and taking that vacation. You can go to China or you can sit home and watch reruns of Alf, but you must get out of the office for two consecutive weeks or the labor board will come down on you.

Eponysterical.

How much leave do employees in Poland get? Having to take all/most of one's leave in one block and work the rest of the year solid, rather than taking the odd long weekend here or there, would suck.
"

26 days minimum, according to Mercer HR. So you're required to take a little under half of your entitlement in at least one two-week block. Which sounds eminently sensible to me. I'd wager the reduced sick time, stress and worker productivity more than pays for that requirement.
posted by Happy Dave at 10:23 AM on May 24, 2011


I'm completely staggered by that, COD. 22 years! And I'm guessing you won't have had any of the "free" vacations that don't even count towards my holiday allowance, like the two-week shutdown at Christmas etc.

Nope - I've been primarily in the tech industry. The 2 week shutdown at Christmas seems to be an artifact of old line heavy manufacturing. The only person I know that still gets that works for Boeing, and that might be only 1 week. Even when I've had nearly a month available to me, the company culture has been such that taking off for more than a week was frowned upon. So I end up doing a lot of long weekends, which isn't necessarily bad, but I do think there is something to the idea that you need to be away for a week before you really start to relax.
posted by COD at 10:24 AM on May 24, 2011


but I do think there is something to the idea that you need to be away for a week before you really start to relax.

Exactly.
posted by pracowity at 10:36 AM on May 24, 2011


Speaking for myself, I don't want YOU to pay for my health benefits, my food, my kids' education.

You really think that you are paying all by yourself for your health benefits, your food, your kids' education? You are forgetting the farm workers who earn a pittance and no benefits to enable you to afford the food you buy. You are forgetting the people who work with you and earn less, whose premium for health insurance take a bigger bite than yours from their paycheck to keep your premiums low. And, regarding your kids' education, there are a lot of people paying property taxes so every child, including yours can get an education.

No, you are not paying for the whole thing all by yourself.
posted by francesca too at 10:50 AM on May 24, 2011 [20 favorites]


I just had this vision of Alf reruns being massively popular in Poland

They are (or were, anyway).
posted by pracowity at 10:52 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


The only person I know that still gets that works for Boeing, and that might be only 1 week.

This just reminded me of when I worked at Boeing. I worked for a company that contracted for Boeing, so technically I wasn't a Boeing employee. When I started working there in 1996, we shared all of the Boeing paid holidays, including the week between Christmas and New Year's Day. Over the five years I was there, that got whittled down bit by bit, until my company only paid us for Christmas Day and New Year's day. However, the office was closed during that week and we had to choose to either take the time as unpaid leave, or burn our vacation days.

I just got hired at my current job after being "temp-to-hire" for two months. I accrue five personal time off (PTO) days per calendar year, but I won't receive any vacation until one year from my date of hire, at which time I will receive five days off. If I stay here long enough I will potentially have up to 20 days vacation time, but I think it takes something like 10 years to reach that point.
posted by Fleebnork at 10:56 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I transferred from the US to the UK, working for the same company. Thing is that the company follows labor law appropriate to the country it operates in - so, for me, everything changed.

Not only do I have more holiday than I know what to do with but they also allow us, on a yearly basis, to "buy" extra holiday. Essentially you are trading in a bit of money for more time. You can buy as much as you want, up to a maximum and your boss can't say anything about it. I think the max is like 2 months.

One of my colleagues buys the max holiday. For 2 months every year, god bless him, he and his wife hop in the car and go driving around the UK and Europe. He dissappears completely. No email access, nothing. Actually, he does post photos on Facebook now and then for his friends to see, usually involving some dramatic, gorgeous location.
posted by vacapinta at 11:21 AM on May 24, 2011


I'm completely staggered by that, COD. 22 years! And I'm guessing you won't have had any of the "free" vacations that don't even count towards my holiday allowance, like the two-week shutdown at Christmas etc.

We have a one week shutdown between Christmas and New Years but the time comes out of your personal vacation time so you have to make sure that you have at least five days left out of your fifteen day allotment or you won't get paid for that week. You used to be able to use floating holidays for that but they decided last year that the dates for floating holidays would be decided by management.
posted by octothorpe at 11:43 AM on May 24, 2011


the dates for floating holidays would be decided by management

Wait. What?

Isn't that sort of the entire opposite of 'floating holiday'?
posted by mephron at 11:49 AM on May 24, 2011


Isn't that sort of the entire opposite of 'floating holiday'?

That was my thought too but HR assures us that it makes sense to them.
posted by octothorpe at 11:59 AM on May 24, 2011


I also kind of thought there were a lot of academics on MeFi. Where are they in these discussions?
Hiding: we're afraid to get torn apart by an agry mob if we reveal we got two weeks at Christmas, three weeks during the year, plus sick days and a three-day bereavement leave when required.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:00 PM on May 24, 2011


(But I am also staff.)
posted by wenestvedt at 12:02 PM on May 24, 2011


I get 31 days of annual leave (paid) a year. HR encourage us to take a two week break sometime in the year, but there is no rule that says when that has to happen.
But I also have flexi-leave. Which I love. If I take a 30 minute lunch every day for a week, working 9-5 that means I'm up 2 hours 15 minutes overall (the working day is 7 hours, apart from Friday, which is 6 and three quarters), so if I do that for two weeks I get to take a half day. I can carry plus of minus ten hours a week.

Leave still has to be approved by my line manager, and, we work out our annual leave so that we aren't all out of the office at the same time. That means we all have to have a fair idea of each others' work, and we cover when others are out, which also comes in handy if anyone ever gets transferred to a different department.
posted by Fence at 12:14 PM on May 24, 2011


I'd post about the amount of vacation/sick leave I get here, but it'd probably come across as bad-mouthing my employer, and would put my job at risk.

Basically, I get enough time off to get a cold once a year, and to take a day or two around Christmas.
posted by schmod at 12:33 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


What I think would work out better than vacation are "forced" recesses/breaks, etc. Yes you get the two 15 min. break and most combine that into lunch so you can get an hour. But how many of us sit on our duff working or even screwing around? I think every company should have a break room with games--board games, video games, hoops, and it's manditory you get off your butt, do not talk about work, have some fun. When I tally my life it goes like this:
5:15 wake up after laying down all night
5:20-6:20--eat, shower, sit reading the internet, getting ready/dressed, etc.
6:25-6:30--sit in car to the train.
6:40--7:30--sit on train and catch zzzzs because 5:15 is too damn early.
7:37-8am--walk to work during summer otherwise catch the bus so I don't freeze
8:10-4:15--sit on my butt and work. Pee and sit. Poop and sit. Eat lunch and sit. Do my work and sit.
repeat the commute home
6:00--get off the train into the car--sit some more.
6:15--feed kid (omg I'm actually standing?) and then....

sit to feed him/eat

7:00 get him ready for a bath, dress him. He tells me to sit with him watching tv.
8:00-9pm sit with him reading stories (yes I know he fights bedtime)
9:15--take a shower
9:35--go to sleep because I"m exhausted.

What kind of life is that? Give me a forced break/recess time. Hell it cuts healthcare costs. I spent three visits in the ER due to the above lifestyle/stress. Yes I could stay up later and exercise on the eliptical from 9:35-10pm and then what? Go right to bed? I can barely stay awake as it is at 9:15.

What I would love is forced recess, more flex hours/1/2 days. I will say Facebook has it right. You're sick, you're sick. Take as many days as you need to get well. Now that's caring.
posted by stormpooper at 12:38 PM on May 24, 2011


As a pseudo-academic (librarian, no tenure track), I get 5 weeks per year. One of those weeks has to be the week between Christmas and New Years, as the school is closed then. I also get 12 days of sick leave each year.

On the other hand, in the four years I've been here, I've gotten a 0.14% raise. No, that's not a typo. Just over 1/10 of 1%. Salaries aren't flat, but the rise isn't enough to be very noticeable.

And the only reason we got even that was because of the faculty union. Go union! I spent my salary increase on union dues.
posted by cereselle at 12:41 PM on May 24, 2011


I get at least 32 days a year which as a shift worker means that if I took them in 4 periods of 8 days it would equate to 80 days holiday.

Some aspects of my job do actually make me fairly indispensable (security clearance, client knowledge that sort of thing) and when I take leave I feel really guilty about letting my employer down.

Oh hang on, no I don't because I am not their fucking DAD.
posted by fullerine at 1:33 PM on May 24, 2011


I accrue five personal time off (PTO) days per calendar year, but I won't receive any vacation until one year from my date of hire, at which time I will receive five days off.

Good grief. When I started my current job I worked for three weeks then took two weeks off on holiday.

I had booked the holiday before I had applied for the job and, even though I offered to postpone my start date till after the I'd got back, they were happy to let me have the time off.

Since I joined halfway through the holiday year it did use up most of my annual leave though.
posted by antiwiggle at 1:46 PM on May 24, 2011


Yeah, but it's more than the nothing I got for being a freelancer.

Unfortunately, being a graphic designer, there is a line of 5,000 people waiting to take my place. This job offered me the most pay and benefits that I've seen in 6 years.

Sigh.
posted by Fleebnork at 1:53 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


atrazine: "Is this a statutory requirement or a policy specific to a particular trade union / employer's association agreement?"

Law number 407 of 28 May 2005 §14: Of the vacation, at least 15 days must be given in succession (main vacation). The main vacation must be taken in the period 1 May to 30 September.

(There is an exception for people working in agriculture. That's only 3% of Danes nowadays.)

This is actually mostly there to allow manufacturing industries (of which we have very little anymore in Denmark) to close for three weeks during summer, sending everybody home. I do not know of anybody in my field (IT) who actually follows this to the letter - people can take four weeks off in January if their employer agrees - but you could use it if your employer refused to let you take more than a week off in a row, for instance.

When we're talking modern IT companies - once you realize as an employer that all of your employees will be off on holidays for five weeks each year, it makes less and less of a difference when they take it, as long as it's not simultaneously.
posted by brokkr at 2:03 PM on May 24, 2011


This is actually mostly there to allow manufacturing industries (of which we have very little anymore in Denmark) to close for three weeks during summer, sending everybody home.

I get sent home for 4 weeks every summer. And one week for Christmas, and at assorted other days during the year. As far as I know, I get some extra free holidays to compensate for these cruel and unusual conditions. I can also negotiate with my bosses to swap holidays. And in some periods (not all year) I can work at home, so my family can have a fun time while I'm locked up in the hotel room or summer house working.

That said, during really busy years it has been a problem, because I've had to work during the holidays and not been able to find time enough for the swapping during the rest of the year. At my workplace, I can't trade time for money so those years have been bad. (Generally, I agree that everyone can be replaced, but there are some exceptions, for instance in HR. There is a limit to how many people should have access to private information in any given organization).
posted by mumimor at 3:22 PM on May 24, 2011


Do you people whining about vacation not have weekends?

I have 62 days of accrued vacation time for the 9 years I have been working for my current employer.

I like what I do, why would I do it less?


If you have children, ask them that question.
posted by reynir at 3:50 PM on May 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


anniecat: Most rich people don't brag on end about how much wealth they have.

You must hang around with a nicer class of rich people - mine are completely insensitive to the problems other people face due to lack of money or position, and they often have a hard time understanding why you're not beaming with joy because they just acquired more whatever.

Quoted from the comments in the CNN article:

"I don't want YOU to pay for my health benefits, my food, my kids' education." Etc. Yadda yadda yadda.

I've been thinking about this lately, partly because I have some well-off friends (see above) who complain bitterly about a) having to pay taxes, and b) having their tax money go for education and health benefits for other people's children.

What it comes down to is that all of us* received a decent public education and some health care because our parents and their peers paid for it. Up until what, 20 years ago? education and health care were seen as general benefits to society, and signs that we lived in a civilized country that was planning on building a Better Future for ALL of its citizens.

One would think that in the Land of the Free, an annual vacation would be a good time to experience the benefits of the greatest civilization the world has ever something something etc. Is it possible to write stuff like this without irony? Just wondering...

_________________
*I live in Canada. YMMV.
posted by sneebler at 3:54 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


In Poland, we are required by law to take at least one two-week (or longer) vacation per year.

I can't read this thread anymore. I was vaguely familiar with some of EU's labor laws when I did my master's in London, but I didn't know, at the time, how my job would crush my soul instead of lighten and excite it and I would rise rise rise to the top and be so deeply in love with my job, and school is different from work.

I'm going to have to spend the rest of my life in the US, and it does not help me to hear about how much better everyone else has it. Too many people in this country rely on their jobs to be their main focus because at some point you realize that you're very reliant on your salary, because money is freedom from poverty, and most states (I think) are at-will, and you can be fired and let go at any time. COBRA is insanely expensive.

I don't feel very good about my choices in life as it is. Maybe I should have insisted we try to get jobs in England. I didn't think it would be like this in the US, but here we are. It's so very scary.

I wish I'd married British or Canadian. Don't tell my spouse, who is not only American-born, but doesn't worry about stuff like health insurance. I learned he hadn't even enrolled at his last job. Too sunny of an attitude about nothing going wrong, which is what I liked about him in the first place and still is a quality I respect. Luckily he's older now and feels more aches and pains, and colleagues are getting illnesses that are making him a little more serious about why you can't fuck around when you have the option of enrolling through work and through a group health plan. I think now there's a law where you might have to enroll. I know I always enroll in my org's crappy health insurance (this year's plan features fewer benefits and less preventative care! And higher premiums! And less coverage!).
posted by anniecat at 4:42 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


mumimor: "Generally, I agree that everyone can be replaced, but there are some exceptions, for instance in HR."

In my experience, most HR departments could be automated fairly easily. I'm currently working on it.
posted by brokkr at 4:48 PM on May 24, 2011


Good gods, this thread is depressing. And maddening.

The job culture in the USA with its tenacious Puritan work ethic is insane. Completely, utterly, incredibly, mind-bogglingly insane. Only a culture of insanity could produce so many workplaces where it's functionally impossible to take time off despite what it says on paper, or people who are proud of the fact that they took no time for restorative leisure in countless years.

And the comments...oh, jeez, I hardly even know where to start. I am so fed up with this hyper-individualistic American propaganda about how we should all take "fierce pride in independence." The cultural ideal of "independence" enshrined in the USA is complete bullshit that has nothing whatsoever to do with the systemic reality of life.

"...they cringed at the very thought of depending on others."

News flash: We're already depending on others. We're dependent on others from the moment we exit the womb until the moment we kick the bucket, no matter how much some people may try to convince themselves otherwise.

We are all interdependent. That is how life works. Health care, education, employment, food production - all these things rely on the efforts of countless people. If you have a paid job, you're depending on your continued ability to work and on your employer to pay you, so that you can use your income to provide for your needs (by buying what you need from other people who produce those things). If you don't have a paid job, you're depending on the government or your family or your spouse or your ability to grow your own food or whatever to meet your needs. If you are living on retirement or investment income, you're depending on the economy and the financial institutions...etc., etc.

Interdependence is a simple fact of life. Yet in the USA job culture, this simple fact is widely considered shameful, since only bums and freeloaders and deadbeats and low-life spongers depend on other people. Grrrr.

I miss living in Canada SO much.
posted by velvet winter at 6:14 PM on May 24, 2011 [9 favorites]


I work for a company that has two owners, a developer as a contractor (functionally full time but he likes it this way?), and ME as the company PM.

My boss went to Ireland for two weeks and we more or less were fine w/o him. I *really* needed him once, and he was sober enough to do the one thing I needed.

My 4 person company managed to let the one guy who is totally vital go off and get drunk and hang out with his childhood friends for 14 days. I know he was reading his email, but he owns the place, that's his business.

I think if we can pull that off, a larger company with an HR department ought to be able to figure it out.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:33 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


US academic (sort of): 22 days vacation/year, 4 floating holidays, 6 paid holidays. Maybe another week's worth of floating holidays for working odd hours/overtime (hard to explain). 10 days academic leave/year.

I know there is a limit to our sick time, but I have no idea what it is. I average about 1 sick day/year.

I somehow manage to work about 2000 hrs/year in spite of the above. But by and large a great job.
posted by etherist at 6:59 PM on May 24, 2011


Here is the Wikipedia entry that lists paid minimum vacation time requirements by country. It covers less than half of the countries in the world, but a lot of the ones it misses probably don't have paid vacation time.
posted by aniola at 7:00 PM on May 24, 2011


If you don't have the talent and imagination to start a business that provides a decent and humane standard of living for your staff, then you most assuredly should not be starting a business.

Oh please, you obviously have not started anything with major capital requirements. Look at the top companies in the world. None of them started with the benefits that people are demanding now. Most of those would never be able to survive if they were mandated to comply when they were just starting out.

So fuck the guys I'm hiring as long as I can attain my goals?

By the way all of that assumes I don't want to give those perks - there are major differences between what I want to do and what is feasible. I would love to hire engineers for 70,000 a pop and give them all healthcare and housing allowances and flex time and child care but guess what, investors don't give you that kind of money and I cannot bank roll that myself as gasp my savings is wrapped 100% into the startup - like most other entrepreneurs.

You people need to realize that you cannot be a startup and give the same perks as a Fortune 500. Mandating as much is a death sentence for entrepreneurs. We're talking at least an extra 50,000 per employee per year for everything that everyone says they need. That is a MAJOR expense and infeasible.
posted by AndrewKemendo at 7:08 PM on May 24, 2011


AndrewKemendo,

the reason that people are so incredulous about the points you make is that the things which you so strongly claim to be impossible are actually the norm across many countries as shown in this thread.

Maybe it is actually something you cannot provide where your business operates, but in many places with work environments that more friendly to workers it clearly is not impossible.
posted by Winnemac at 7:24 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I will never have the start up capital to be able to pay for the time off and full blown health care and dental and child care etc... that will be required to give or i will get shut down.

The fact that your dream is to start a company using the labor of a bunch of people for whom you will not give paid vacation or health benefits strikes me as sort of sleazy. Basically you're telling me that you want to find a bunch of people willing to work for no benefits, with no paid time off, just for the privilege of giving you a company to run.

This being the wealthiest country in the world, we have a choice about what kind of country we it to be. That doesn't seem like an appealing one, just so you can fulfill a "dream" of supervising exploited employees.
posted by deanc at 7:37 PM on May 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


AndrewKemendo: hint -- people might be willing to work for lower than the standard industry wage if you give them a good leave package. Which doesn't actually cost anything extra because you're paying them anyway, right?
posted by contessa at 8:05 PM on May 24, 2011


This being the wealthiest country in the world, we have a choice about what kind of country we it to be. That doesn't seem like an appealing one, just so you can fulfill a "dream" of supervising exploited employees.

You know, I stepped out of the startup culture specifically because I didn't want the crazy-ass-hours-for-the-promise-of-riches tradeoff. And there definitely are some sociopathic mofos out there launching companies and dangling empty promises in front of devs and other skilled workers to avoid paying them industry averages, or allowing for healthy lives. But -- and this is a big but -- that's not necessarily what AndrewKemendo was talking about or defending.

You join a startup, especially a tech startup, and you're essentially co-launching a company. You're investing your time and your energy and your heart to get in on the ground floor of something you care about, along with the other people who are doing the same. If you join a startup for crap pay and you don't have a stake in the company's success then, yes, you're getting screwed.

I work for a company that essentially bootstrapped itself from 'a couple of freelancers who shared work' to 'a twenty-something strong consulting/training/development company.' No outside investors, no funding other than the money the founders were able to pull together from their own savings and some loans from family members. It didn't start with the benefits package it has now, not because the founders were twirling their evil moustaches and cackling, but because they were figuring out how long they could go without paying themselves in order to pay another employee.

You could argue that they never should have started a company, but along the way they succeeded, and now have a good benefits and vacation package in comparison to most other companies in the industry. Really good, at least in my experience. There's a difference between 'working towards an ideal' and 'using being-a-startup as an excuse to shaft employees.'
posted by verb at 8:18 PM on May 24, 2011


There's a difference between 'working towards an ideal' and 'using being-a-startup as an excuse to shaft employees.'

In fairness, yes, I agree. I like the startup culture. In such a shared venture, there's going to be a lot of shared sacrifice to get something off the ground. There's a difference between partners acting with mutual consent or a certain amount of willingness to delay gratification by not using your vacation time now and what AndrewKemendo was specifically talking about with not being able to get startup capital from investors because they supposedly wouldn't want to invest in a company whose employees were hired with health care benefits (easily solved by a single-payer national system, btw) and vacation time.

Incidentally, I'm not a big "use all your vacation time" person. I like to wait every couple of years and then take a long break, but that's just my personal preference.
posted by deanc at 8:41 PM on May 24, 2011


Ok you guys are right, you busted me. I guess I will just move my business ideas to the pacific where I can buy slaves for $900 a piece.

At least verb has a fucking clue.
posted by AndrewKemendo at 2:42 AM on May 25, 2011


Thank you for your reasoned rebuttal, AndrewKemendo. Care to tell us how businesses like e.g. Skype get started in Europe, where you'd be dragged before a labour court if you tried to pull off the stunts you describe above?
posted by brokkr at 3:29 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


You join a startup, especially a tech startup, and you're essentially co-launching a company. You're investing your time and your energy and your heart to get in on the ground floor of something you care about, along with the other people who are doing the same. If you join a startup for crap pay and you don't have a stake in the company's success then, yes, you're getting screwed.

I've worked for a few startups. The businesses that were successful were the ones that treated their employees fairly, which included tangibles like relatively competitive starting salary and benefits. The owners and investors saw the value in this. My part of the bargain and value to them was to make a contribution to the business over and above what was expected. When needed it was all hands on deck, but at no point was I expected to work without breaks, work sick or work without a vacation (in American terms). But there were also intangibles like knowing your efforts were appreciated.

On the other hand the one company that failed did so while treating employees like crap, and that included empty promises of a piece of the action and substandard salary and benefits.

At some point you really do get what you pay for.
posted by SteveInMaine at 3:46 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mandating as much is a death sentence for entrepreneurs.

Not if it creates one of those level playing fields that we hear about so often (in such misleading ways).
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:47 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Care to tell us how businesses like e.g. Skype get started in Europe, where you'd be dragged before a labour court if you tried to pull off the stunts you describe above?

Maybe because the people who worked there never brought them up on it because they knew if it worked they would be set for life...just maybe

I have no first hand knowledge of how Skype started. From everything I have read their startup never had any benefits to their two founders and three developers. In fact their whole history seems to have been that the original development was "after hours" and then went through about a half dozen buyouts and changing service type before ever becoming useful and gaining more staff.

Do you have some proof that they founded the company from nothing and gave gucci perks from the beginning?

You seem to also ignore the national health service safety net that Danes can fall back onto, thus shifting the requirement from the employer onto the state. Something impossible for US employers.
posted by AndrewKemendo at 4:49 AM on May 25, 2011


From everything I have read their startup never had any benefits to their two founders and three developers. In fact their whole history seems to have been that the original development was "after hours"...
Do you understand what you just wrote here? One of the conditions that allowed the creation of Skype was a culture where there is such a thing as "after hours". In mainstream US work culture, you can't really do that, because you'll lose your job if you don't put 110% into it. In a culture that respects people's leisure time, they can devote that time to entrepreneurship, which allows them to develop an idea without quitting their jobs and putting everything on the line.

I see similar things in my own office, which has a more European-style attitude towards vacation and working hours. One of my colleagues uses his free time to run a small business with his wife. I assume he'll quit if it takes off, but for the moment he's still got insurance and a steady source of income. That's a choice that the US has made in the past when we mandated things like 40 hour weeks, limits on child labor, and the minimum wage. It's not unprecedented.
You seem to also ignore the national health service safety net that Danes can fall back onto, thus shifting the requirement from the employer onto the state.
I don't ignore that. I imagine that having universal health care would do vastly more to encourage entrepreneurship in the US than having a no-vacation culture ever could. (And I also think that it would be easier to get health-care costs in the US under control if we had a saner work culture, because I don't think that our current work culture is good for people's health in some very concrete ways.) As a person with a chronic health condition, I know that I will never be able to start my own business, and I will never be able to work for anything but a monster behemoth company or government that can afford to insure me. There are a lot of people in my shoes who might want to start businesses or work for start-ups. Right-wingers are fond of pretending that America's lack of social legislation encourages entrepreneurship, but I think that it discourages it just as significantly.

And I guess that, finally, even if some start-ups would have to fold if we mandated vacation leave, it would probably be worth the trade-off. I don't know that growth is the only thing that matters. By most measures, people in the US have a not-so-great quality of life. Most of the growth in our economy benefits a pretty small group of people. It might be worth it to sacrifice some prosperity in order to have a healthier, happier, saner, better-educated, etc. etc. etc. population.
posted by craichead at 5:40 AM on May 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


The minimum legal requirements aren't Gucci perks.

A close relative of mine works for a start-up in London, aside from developers she is the only full time employee. There is no HR team.

She has her holiday days, her right to sick days, maternitiy leave, the chance to join a pension scheme. These are basic employment rights, they are not perks.

I work for a charity, every pound we spend is a pound that someone somewhere has fundraised for us. I get crap pay, relative to what I could get paid in the private or even the public sector, but I do get some benefits, more holiday than the minimum, a very, very fair flexitime system, duvet days, a decent pension.

The idea that people rarely take a break in America is scary to me. How do you stay human? Everyone needs downtime, and not just the weekend, where you have just had time to clean the house, do the shopping, do the garden, maybe go out for a drink or see a film when bamm! you're back in the office again.
posted by Helga-woo at 5:49 AM on May 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


Eep. I'm a ding-bat. These sentences were supposed to go at the end of the last paragraph, not the one they're in:
That's a choice that the US has made in the past when we mandated things like 40 hour weeks, limits on child labor, and the minimum wage. It's not unprecedented.
posted by craichead at 6:00 AM on May 25, 2011


I wonder when Andrew will be making enough money to decide he can now afford to treat his employees like humans. Or will he always be thinking that his investors (or later shareholders) simply will not wear Gucci perks like a day off, not when he could spend the same money on more wageslaves?

His posts here are exactly and precisely why you need to legislate for these rights, not just hope.
posted by bonaldi at 6:04 AM on May 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Andrew I understand what you're saying but, there is a huge difference between people with and without equity.

If someone has significant equity in their employer, they're not an employee, they're a shareholder who happens to work as an employee. I don't think anyone disputes the justice of allowing shareholders in a startup or partners in a partnership to work as hard as they are humanly able.

But for every hot-shot who spends his spare time eating broken glass and shitting out thread-safe Python interpreters, there are 100 guys turning out business logic code in workmanlike Java and a 100,000 working in restaurants.

There are vast swathes of the population who work in jobs that are dead-end. In fact, only to a career-track minded person is that even a necessary qualifier - most jobs are dead-ends. It is not unreasonable to protect those people, they do form 98% of the population.

Entrepreneurs in The Netherlands or Denmark don't take six week vacations in the first year of starting a business (obviously), but not everyone is an entrepreneur. Just because I aspire to make it to a certain level of success does not make it a good idea to tailor society to reward only those who actually clear that hurdle.

Obviously societies that reward excellence will do better in the long run than ones that do not, but most people are mediocre by definition! In general policies that mandate minimum benefits will protect people who have less labour bargaining power, while those in top 1% of their field have enough bargaining power to get what they want anyway.

Yes, certainly these policies make it harder for very small businesses to get started by adding a few % to their wage bill (and starting a business is hard enough). It is up to each society to find a balance that protects employees without putting such a burden on businesses that there are no employers left for them.

It does no-one any favours to pretend that it is a moral right to have vacation days or on the other hand that it is a moral outrage to force employers to give them. That is woolly headed nonsense, the universe doesn't care about us humans and our rights. People have to work out societal structures within which to live, and that takes negotiation and nuance. This kind of trade-off should be one that reasonable people can:
a) agree is not black or white
b) reach a compromise opinion on
In other words, precisely the kind of decision that liberal democracies were designed to make. Whether they do so efficiently is a separate matter.
posted by atrazine at 6:39 AM on May 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


Like many of you I worked in a top-down vacation-adverse institution (higher education administration) for the better part of a decade. It's hard to read many of these comments because it was that culture of honor surrounding long weekdays and working over the weekend and ignoring vacation that was so killing, and even reading about it puts my psyche right back in it. Awful.

When I resigned, because vacation time was a monetary part of my salary package, I was told by human resources that I was entitled to a lump sum settlement cheque for my unused days. But then, I was clued in by a savvy co-worker that if you read the fine print, I was also entitled to change my resignation date to end when my leave was out, earning my full salary for that time and that for most of us, this was by far the greater amount. Since I couldn't be fired during the leave period, I was safe to truly walk away and not feel as though I should work 'from home' during these leave period (unlike during my maternity leave, when at one point, my supervisor actually arrived at my home with questions and concerns).

I left in the summer and received a paycheck until December. While it's true that I was truly very fortunate to have such a generous benefits package that acquired and banked those years and years of leave, the only way I could have enjoyed that leave is the way that I did--by resigning. I never believed or internalized during my tenure that I worked hard enough to take more than a three day weekend here and there, and then only after the conclusion of particularly intense projects. This was especially true after I returned from maternity leave (the one where I 'checked in' via email and voicemail and assisted with 'light' issues and concerns) when I felt, due to previous examples and the culture, that I could never work hard enough ever again to justify the time I took off for baby (there's only so many times you can hear the story about your boss having a baby one week and coming back the next before it's crystal clear that your 12-week leave was an abomination).

I went back to grad school in a field where working part-time provides a great income for my family, and when I did a lot of shadowing and volunteering in the field before I went back, I asked A LOT of questions about personal time and work/life balance and industry flexibility.

Last year, my father died of a massive heart attack less than 45 days into his retirement after doing nothing but work since he was a young teenager. There is nothing in the end of it all that we win. 45 days is 6 weeks of vacation out of 50 years of work. He retired to a location to be close to us to watch his grandchild grow up, visited us once post-retirement, died a month later. Other than family, the folks who attended his funeral were people from work.

Gah.
posted by rumposinc at 7:19 AM on May 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


At the end of my life I really don't think I'm going to look back and, tones of deep regret in my voice, say that I wish I'd worked more and holiday'd less.

And really, isn't that the most important thing? To look back and say you lived life well?
posted by five fresh fish at 9:15 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


just as a datapoint in our collective psychology...
Nearly Half of Americans Are 'Financially Fragile': Nearly half of Americans say that they definitely or probably couldn't come up with $2,000 in 30 days, according to new research, raising concerns about the financial fragility of many households.
posted by kliuless at 10:14 AM on May 25, 2011


Fuck I couldn't come up with $2,000 for an unexpected expense in a year.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 10:19 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]




That index would be so handy for me if it covered more than just the countries in the OECD.
posted by aniola at 10:53 AM on May 25, 2011


Helga-woo: "but I do get some benefits, more holiday than the minimum, a very, very fair flexitime system, duvet days, a decent pension..."

I'm now imagining this as a weird British anachronism, where employees are permitted to take off from work twice a year so that they can re-fluff their comforters....
posted by schmod at 12:10 PM on May 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


Duvet days. A personal allowance that requires no notice.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:14 PM on May 25, 2011


My former (government) employer used to have no limits on vacation rollover. Now you are limited to 6 weeks at a time: over that, you have to use it or accept monetary compensation for any accrued vacation days over the limit. But back in the day, the rollover was unbounded. Stories exist of people who accumulated a year's worth of vacation and then... get this ... retired one whole year early with full pay in their last year. That's right-- those most senior people got 6 weeks of vacation per year and decided to forgo taking any vacation for almost 8 years just so they could retire a year early. I heard about stuff like this and wanted to ask these guys, "really? are you proud of yourself? You spent your late 50s and early 60s never taking a vacation and traveling just so you could retire one year early?" It seemed like a waste of life-- I'd totally take 6 weeks of vacation each year and simply work one more year of my life rather than give up vacations for almost a decade just to retire a year early.

AndrewKemendo sounds proud of the fact that he has 12 weeks of vacation he's never used. But I got to visit Iceland and Berlin and hang out with my family in Amsterdam, so which one of us do you think got the better deal?
posted by deanc at 12:19 PM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Quite, deanc.

I might have been a bit glib about it in my comment above, but I find it terribly sad to think that there might be someone who has a family (and I have no idea if AndrewKemendo does or not) crowing about having not taken weeks and weeks of holiday.
posted by reynir at 12:24 PM on May 25, 2011


Some perspective (with a chart!).

According to that chart, Americans work less than Italians, Greeks, and Mexicans. So, there is that.

Frankly, I'm suspicious of the numbers. I mean, both Italians and Mexicans have siestas in the middle of the day, so...
posted by Deathalicious at 1:57 PM on May 25, 2011


Fuck I couldn't come up with $2,000 for an unexpected expense in a year.

me neither. I never have been able to.

If that is financial fragility then I'm made of spun glass and I'm sitting on the very edge of the coffee table in a room full of toddlers.
posted by winna at 2:29 PM on May 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Fuck I couldn't come up with $2,000 for an unexpected expense in a year.

Wait, so just signing up for a new credit card isn't a good solution to that problem?
posted by Deathalicious at 2:32 PM on May 25, 2011


Bahahahhahahhaha...hahaha...hahaha....heeeeeee

Nobody'd ever offer me credit.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 4:35 PM on May 25, 2011


Nobody'd ever offer me credit.

You're right about that, thsmchnekllsfascists. I've got to give you credit where credit's due. Wait - I don't? Well, then - I guess you're wrong. Which, I suppose means you're right, again. Wait a minute...
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:41 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


AndrewKemendo: "You seem to also ignore the national health service safety net that Danes can fall back onto, thus shifting the requirement from the employer onto the state. Something impossible for US employers."

No, I'm not ignoring that. But I'm sorry for you that you as a country have chosen not to leverage the power of the people to offer this service to your corporations. Instead, you're choosing to fill the pockets of the top dogs.
posted by brokkr at 2:22 AM on May 26, 2011


kliuless: "Nearly Half of Americans Are 'Financially Fragile': Nearly half of Americans say that they definitely or probably couldn't come up with $2,000 in 30 days, according to new research, raising concerns about the financial fragility of many households."

Ha! I only make $2,000 in 30 days---and that's before taxes.

As for the vacation thing---I used to work as a program clerk (essentially a department secretary) for Pennsylvania's environmental agency. After my six-month probationary period, I got one 'personal day' and, I think, the equivalent of two days' "vacation" (technically 15 hours). After I had been there a year, I got another personal day and another day or two of vacation. After I had been there 18 months, the agency's budget was cut 27% and I was laid off.

I was never entirely clear what the difference between "personal" and "vacation" days were (we also had sick leave, which ostensibly required a doctor visit of some sort). (I would've gotten more vacation time at a faster rate if i'd stayed longer, I do remember, while personal days continue to accrue at only one or two per half-year...) And for those who say greater unionization would solve this issue---I was a member of AFSCME, the state workers' union.

Now I work for a non-profit org which is based at, and paid through, a (largely non-union) university. I get two days of 'personal time' at the beginning of the fiscal year, and 10 days of 'vacation time' per year, 5/6 of a day at a time each month. (Those who make it past five years get another five days, and so on up to 25 days/year of vacation for those who've been with the university over 20 years.)
posted by FlyingMonkey at 6:47 AM on June 2, 2011


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